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.


What would happen if Twitter disappeared tomorrow?

I’ve been on Twitter since 2007. It’s part of my daily routine and probably my most vital social media channel for finding and sharing news. But Twitter has had some lingering financial issues and when they recently tried to sell the company, no one stepped up to make an appropriate offer.*

Also, a couple of social media experiments have crashed and burned lately. Twitter announced that they were closing Vine.** Talkshow had a bunch of potential but didn’t make it six months. And while Twitter is much larger, it’s not immune from financial reality.

Which got me thinking, what if we woke up one morning and Twitter was gone. Or more likely, what if Twitter changed so radically, that it was unusable? How would that change the way I get things done?

I’d lose a bunch of contacts. I follow a large number of designers, brands and local experts on Twitter — and no where else. If Twitter disappeared, I’d lose all those contacts and have to try and reconstruct the network on another channel. Not an easy task.

I’d change how I watch live events. During the World Series, I kept an eye on Twitter. During the presidential debates, I followed along on Twitter. During the University of South Carolina's football game last weekend, I kept up with the score on Twitter. During election night coverage, sigh. Twitter is the perfect companion to a live event and I’d miss seeing what my friends and family think in real time.

I’d have to rethink how I find articles and stories. I find lots of inspirational links and content on Twitter. If Twitter goes away, I’m using RSS and Feedly much more aggressively.

I’d have to rethink how I share content. I share most of my blog posts through Twitter. If Twitter were gone, I’d have to share them somewhere else like Facebook or Medium.

I’d change the way I use Facebook. I use Facebook for family pictures and connecting with people I know and have met. If Twitter disappeared, I’d probably use Facebook more to connect with a wider audience. Maybe I’d invest more time into building the Sketchbook B page on Facebook. Post more links to articles on my Facebook feed. If Twitter goes away, my Facebook experience changes radically.

I’d spend more time on Instagram. Because I love Instagram, almost as much as I love Twitter. And I’m going to have some free time if there is no Twitter.

I’d try to find a replacement. If Twitter disappeared, I imagine several companies would rush to unveil a replacement. Or modify their social product to attract Twitter refugees. You know Google would retool and rebrand Google Plus, Linked In might try to be less of a train wreck. Even Snapchat might try to appeal to former Twitter users. Startups would start, and fail. Someone would try to resurrect App.net. I’d try them all, but I’m not sure there can truly be a replacement for Twitter.


But… reality.

So I don’t think Twitter will just shut down. At some point, the price to purchase the company gets so low, that someone will take a chance on them. I’m more concerned that Twitter, or a company that buys Twitter, will change it so completely, that it becomes useless.

This exercise had forced me, though, to start evaluating areas where I am too reliant on Twitter. I'm going to start connecting to designers and thought leaders on other channels. I'm looking for new avenues to find and share content. I'll evaluate how I use channels like Facebook, Instagram, Dribbble, YouTube and Medium.

Twitter might not disappear, but it's still best not to keep your eggs in one basket.

* This was compounded but the fact that few established companies — like Disney — wanted to take on Twitter while abusive rhetoric is rampant. Let’s face it, Twitter has been a dumpster fire during this election season.

** Although maybe Vine is getting a reprieve.

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 ponders the future of social media. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Luke’s for a day

Impressive guerrilla marketing campaign turns local coffee shops into everyone’s favorite Stars Hollow diner

Last week, coffee shops all over the nation rebranded themselves for a day as “Luke’s” — the fictional diner from the TV show Gilmore Girls. This bit of marketing genius was part of a promotional effort to promote the new Gilmore Girls Netflix miniseries.

In South Carolina, only one coffee shop was selected to be Luke’s: The Wired Goat in the Vista. As a Gilmore Girls fan, I was looking forward to stopping by and getting my cup with a Luke’s coffee cup sleeve. (I'm also a Wired Goat fan... that's where AIGA South Carolina holds it's monthly coffee meet ups.)

The line stayed this long pretty much all day.

The line stayed this long pretty much all day.

I expected it to be crowded, but when I got to the Wired Goat, I was floored. The line extended out the door and down the alley. I drove by a couple of times that day, thinking that eventually the line would get shorter. It didn't. Fans kept coming until there was no more coffee to be sold. Gilmore Girls fans gathered from all around to celebrate one of their favorite shows. (I even heard stories of fans driving from adjacent states to be part of the Luke’s experience.)

Kudos to the ad agency or marketing firm that dreamed up this campaign. It really is a perfect guerrilla marketing scheme, with every participant getting something out of it. Netflix gets the exposure they want with a relatively minor investment. The selected coffee shops get positive exposure and additional traffic for the day. And the fans get a place to celebrate with other fans and then share their experience online. 

I never made it into the Wired Goat that day. I’m a Gilmore Girls fan, but I just couldn’t spend an hour in line. A few days later, though, my wife and I made in to the Wired Goat and they still had the Luke’s coffee sleeve. 

And, of course, we took pictures and shared them.

My serious coffee face, with A Luke's cup.

My serious coffee face, with A Luke's cup.

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 loves to binge watch 1990's television series. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Quick thoughts on "texting in public" with Talkshow

I’ve really had fun this week with Talkshow, a new messaging service/social media network. Essentially, it’s texting, but in public. It's a mix of Twitter and texting. You are able to converse with friends and other people can see the feed, like posts and react to posts. It’s pretty intuitive and I enjoyed playing with it.*

It's iOS only. So iPhone or iPad is your only option. Talkshow isn't available for Android and you can't post from a computer. You can share your conversations with others through a web view and embed "shows" on pages.

To give you an idea of what it's like, embedded below is a sample of a conversation between my friend and former coworker James Leslie Miller.** Our conversation eventually wanders into a discussion of design software and another user, Greg, requested to join as a cohost. 

If you try out Talkshow, look me up. As always, my handle is @sketchbookb.

* I also experimented with Snapchat this week. I'm so confused.

** He'll always be "Jim" to me.