Typed, a crowdfunded blog platform, closes down today

It’s not often in blogging you get to see a story come to a definitive end, but today I do.

Waaaay back in 2015 – almost exactly three years ago – I backed a crowdfunder for a new blogging platform from Realmac Software in Brighton.

Today that platform dies.

Typed is closing.

It seems to have struggled from early on. It was available in beta by that May, and I quite liked what I saw. But development seemed to stall, and their own blog suddenly stopped publishing in February 2016. The opening sentence of the post was not encouraging:

February was a terrible month.

Only one further post was published on that blog – in December 2016. Ironically, the last words published on the blog were:

We’re in this for the long haul.
Happy Typing.

That was it for the blog. And then the support forum abruptly disappeared with no word. Alarm bells started to ring.

In April of 2017, a death was announced, because it was obvious that Realmac weren’t getting enough revenue from the platform, and saw no way towards having it:

For the last 8+ months, Typed.com has been running at a loss. I’ve tried hard to make Typed.com viable, it’s a great platform and I still believe in it. However, at the end of the day, it comes down to cost.

I didn’t notice for a few months. But then, the post was buried in a forum for an entirely different piece of software. Realmac did not handle this well. Rewards backers paid for like stickers and t-shirts were never delivered. Communication to those backers — many of whom paid for life memberships — dried up. As the platform struggled, the team seemed to lose interest in it and – rather unforgivably – in those people who had paid to get it going.

I won’t beat about the bush: I’m disappointed by Realmac. They’re a local company to me, whose software I’ve tried to support. I even appeared in an advert for them. My disappointment isn’t in the failure of the platform: that was always a risk. It’s on how very badly they mishandled the communications to the users and backers.

Finally, the end of this sorry tale has come. Any time now, the servers go down, and that’s the end of Typed.

The crowdfunder’s regret?

Do I regret backing it? No. The blogging world still needs innovation. I’ve backed two crowdfunded blog platforms, and one microblogging platform. Typed might be dying, but Ghost is still going strong. It hit 1.0 last summer, and has continued to develop since.

Innovation involves risk. One paid off. One didn’t. That’s OK – things move on. micro.blog, the microblogging service I backed, is a whole bunch of fun, and I’m having some great conversations there, and doing some fun blogging.

RIP Typed. You were a nice idea that never really got traction.

Facebook Live is looking rather unwell

Facebook Live is beginning to look undead:

The number of Facebook Live videos produced by paid partners more than halved by the end of 2017—and in one case fell by as much as 94 percent—as once guaranteed payments ended and Facebook deprioritized the product, new Tow Center research suggests.

This graph gives you the picture:

Publisher Facebook Liove decline

This really isn’t a surprise. Live video is an incredibly attention-demanding form of media, and in an attention poor, content rich age, only the very strongest and most compelling videos are going to get any traction at all. That means Facebook Live will only ever be a very niche, very targeted tool for certain stories, where there is a compelling news reason to show events live.

We’ve known this for decades. I discussed this with Nick Newman last year, and he pointed out that TV has had an awfully long time to experiment with live broadcast — and evidence has shown again and again that it only suits a very small number of subjects.

Without Facebook’s payments, I doubt we’d have seen a fraction of the peak levels of use.

Beautiful Kerala

Last summer, I was lucky enough to visit Kerala in India, to do some training for Malayala Manorama. I had a fairly long drive from the airport, and the clients put me up in a beautiful waterside resort (pictured above).

While I didn’t have much time to explore, much of this beautiful short video is familiar to me as a taste of a stunning part of the world:

I’d like to go back sometime.

[via Scroll.in]

Is Medium aiming to be the Facebook of long-form writing?

Stowe Boyd has some serious questions about the future of Medium:

And what about Medium? Are we better off because of Medium’s mechanisms to suggest to us what to read, or would we be better off with thousands of independent curators and publishers, or the basic social affordance of following the best writers, directly?

My fear is that Medium will fall pray to the lowest common denominator attention merchants in the same way every other centralising platform does.

And that would be a shame.

Russia’s trolling operations are effective, but not sophisticated

Russia’s Troll Operation Was Not That Sophisticated:

The Russians tracked how well what they were posting was connecting with people. “In order to gauge the performance of various groups on social media sites, the ORGANIZATION tracked certain metrics like the group’s size, the frequency of content placed by the group, and the level of audience engagement with that content, such as the average number of comments or responses to a post,” the indictment reads. And in another spot: “Defendants and their coconspirators received and maintained metrics reports on certain group pages and individualized posts.”

This is not high-level spycraft. It is, rather, bread-and-butter audience development work. My guess here is that they simply looked at Facebook analytics. It’s one click in the Facebook interface to look at these numbers.

This is a good post from Alexis Madrigal pointing out something that many in the mainstream miss: what Russia was doing around the US elections was not particularly clever. They were just using freely-available tools in a socially-manipulative way. Many of their techniques are things Sarah and I have been teaching on the Interactive Journalism MA for years.

I was struck by a video I was showing to some other students this afternoon. It was of Craig Silverman of Buzzfeed talking about Russian misinformation campaigns, amongst other forms of intentional disinformation. Specialists knew about the Internet Research Agency and its work long before the election – but their reporting wasn’t taken seriously because it was “just social media”.

I wonder how different the story of the last two years would have been if they had been listened to more widely.

Twitter Logo

Twitter’s abuse problem is, at heart, a technology problem

This is a damning summation of Twitter’s structural problems:

“It’s a technology company with crappy technologists, a revolving door of product heads and C.E.O.s, and no real core of technological innovation. You had Del saying, ‘Trolls are going to be a problem. We will need a technological solution for this.’” But Twitter never developed a product sophisticated enough to automatically deal with with bots, spam, or abuse. “You had this unsophisticated human army with no real scalable platform to plug into. You fast forward, and it was like, ‘Hey, shouldn’t we just have basic rules in place where if the suggestion is to suspend an account of a verified person, there should be a process in place to have a flag for additional review, or something?’ You’d think it would take, like, one line of code to fix that problem. And the classic response is, ‘That’s on our product road map two quarters from now.’”

Now, it’s a quote from a former executive, so should be taken with a substantial portion of salt.

But it does ring true.

Blogs are digital thought spaces

Om Malik:

When relaxing in the sun this past weekend, I realized that my original blog was my thought space, and that is why it resonated with my community. Among all the blogs I continue to follow — Dave Winer, John Gruber, Bob Lefsetz, Koi Vinh, and Jason Kottke, for example — they are all what I think of as thought spaces. Original posts, links, and opinions are essentially a reflection-on how they view the world and how they are thinking.

Still true for me after nearly 15 years writing here.

The routine abuse female journalists face online

The unacceptable price of practicing journalism as a woman online:

A person has stalked and harassed her for five years based on a blog post she wrote in 2012. Other commenters call her the N-word and a “cunt.” One man devoted two years to creating new Twitter accounts every day with the sole purpose of harassing her. She’s been told she’s not really black because her mom is white—that she’s posing as a “quasi-Negro.”

I bet 50% of my readers will be as shocked as me, and the other 50% are shaking their heads in familiarly and depressing recognition.