How to attract cousins

One of the reasons many family historians blog is to attract research cousins. Blogging about your family history and your research efforts is a great way to connect with other family members. But first they have to find you. You can help things along by taking advantage of these simple tips to make your post more search friendly:

  • Consider which search keywords you would use to find the information in your post, then include those keywords as tags in your article's Post Settings. Surnames, locations and significant events are great tags for family history articles.
  • Titles carry a lot of weight with search engines. Make sure your title includes the main topic of your post (surname, event, location, etc.).
  • Text surrounded by HTML (things like headings, bulleted lists, numbered lists, block quotes, etc.) gets more attention from search crawlers than long paragraphs. Use descriptive headings to organize your story and whenever possible include your search keywords.
  • Include links to other sites with related or supporting information.

Tags are at the top of the list because they also serve as an organizational tool within your Posthaven blog. The tag list displayed in your sidebar can be used to display all the posts that have been tagged with that particular keyword. As your collection of posts grows, this feature becomes even more useful.

Posthaven Sharing Options Upgraded

In addition to the Upvote icon, Posthaven readers can now share an interesting post via Twitter and Facebook too. When a reader clicks either the Twitter or Facebook icon below a blog post, a link to that post is published on that person's timeline. 

These sharing options are not available on private blogs and the blog owner can turn them off in the General tab on the Settings screen if he so desires.

Posthaven Primer

Moving away from free

With the demise of the Posterous blog platform thanks to a sellout to Twitter and Google Reader's upcoming shutdown, I'm beginning to realize how dangerous free services can be. When you are a paying customer, you have clout. If you're not happy it's going to impact the business's profits and they are going to work hard to keep you - and your money - happy. In the tech world, startup services and platforms often begin with free features. They could have a plan for generating revenue - maybe with a premium service in addition to the free one - or they may just want to get popular enough to attract a buyer. Generally, we (the users) don't have a clue what their plan is and should remain wary. Even the big guys like Google will pull the plug on a popular service like Reader when they want to point you to a different service. So what if they lose a few (thousand) free customers?

That being said, I'm a firm believer that competition and profit are great motivators. I've spent the $5 to reserve an account at Posthaven and I'm amazed at the effort they have made to give us Posterous users a safe alternative. The data migration effort alone was huge! As soon as the email posting and distribution features are functional, $60/year will be a small price to pay to get our family's private "news service" up and running again. The fact that I can have 9 additional blogs as part of that price is very nice - and will likely be put to good use - but it's knowing that the developers will do everything they can to keep the platform up, running and well-maintained that is the top of my priority list.

There's a lot of effort underway to develop alternatives to Google Reader. I have been using the Reeder apps [Mac & iOS] and they are working hard to provide multiple alternatives for managing feed subscriptions and keeping everything in synch across the apps. They have a couple of solutions in place on the iPhone app - both of them requiring a paid subscription. Until the Mac and iPad apps are updated with alternative solutions, those apps are free in the App Store. I've paid the $2 to try the iPhone app with Feedbin and so far it works great. The iPhone app even lets me choose which feed service (Google's still there for now) I want to use. Feedbin also has a web-based reader so it should soon be covering all my reading options. Feedbin's subscription management is still a bit clunky, but I'm sure that will improve as their customer base grows. I wouldn't be surprised to see other feed management options appearing either.

With Google out of the market, there's money to be made in the news-reading business and I think we're about to have a number of impressive options. Moving away from free could turn out to be a very good thing.

Posterous is gone - almost

The public side of the Posterous blog platform is no longer. According to the guys at Posthaven, they had to close down new account signups for a while last week to focus on getting Posterous users safely migrated to Posthaven. Over at the Posterous site, there's a notice that existing users can continue to log in until May 31st - but only to request a site backup.

So, with the Posterous migration madness behind them, the Posthaven developers can concentrate on building the platform. Here's what's happening according to their roadmap:

Here's what's in there now:
  • Post by web, with photos, music, video and documents
  • Private sites with passwords
  • Pages and links
  • Autopost to Facebook and Twitter
Here's what's coming soonest:
  • Post by email
  • Image gallery upload and editing
  • Commenting
  • CSS customization
  • Autopost to Google+,, LinkedIn, and other services
  • Blog following with email notifications
  • Multiple contributors
  • Bookmarklet

Don't see anything about themes here? Not to worry - they're saving that for last. The CSS customization feature should give us some flexibility with fonts, colors and such, but themes won't come until everything else is in place. I kinda like the plain vanilla wrapper - but a few custom fonts could do wonders  . . .

Creekside Chatter at Posterous


April 30th - the day Twitter shuts down the Posterous blog platform - is quickly approaching. If you have a Posterous blog and want to keep it, you need to be migrating your content NOW. I've migrated my sites to Posthaven, a Posterous replacement that's still under construction. Why Posthaven and not WordPress? Posthaven is a reconstruction of the Posterous platform by two of the original developers. It will have all the same features and functionality of Posterous - updated to take advantage of the latest advances in technology. I loved Posterous' simplicity and its email posting functionality. It has successfully served as a family journal and mailing service for several years because of those features.

Obviously, you don't build a platform like this overnight - even if you are recreating something you already know inside and out. The developers' first priority was to provide a clean migration path so Posterous users could move their blogs prior to the April 30th deadline. That functionality has been operational since the end of March. Both my Posterous blogs have been moved successfully for which I'm both very grateful and quite relieved. Although I am antsy to once again have all the features and functionality available, I'm finding it fascinating to watch Posthaven grow. This week pages, links and menus have been added.

Posthaven has one significant feature that makes it very different from Posterous. They will be charging $5/month to maintain up to 10 blogs in your Posthaven profile. With that fee comes a promise that Posthaven will be a durable platform that will "last forever". While no one can promise anything will last forever, it is comforting to know that these developers want to make their money by keeping their users happy instead of trying to attract buyers. And since I don't start paying until the site comes out of beta status - originally estimated at mid-April - I'm getting a good look at what I'll be paying for before I commit.

There's still quite a way to go: design themes, email posting and comments/replies, mobile apps and sharing to social networks - all requiring significant construction effort. It will be a while before I can enjoy all the things that made Posterous such a delightful family news service. If what I've seen so far is any example, it will be well worth the wait and the price.

Posthaven adds features

Now that the Posterous migration functionality has been finalized, the Posthaven developers have started working on building out the feature set. The Post Settings section now includes options to add tags to a post, make the post private and schedule posts for publishing. I'm enjoying watching Posthaven come to life and look forward to having all my favorite features up and running.

Posthaven editing screen

Posthaven update

Posthaven blog
My Creekside Chatter blog in Posthaven

My Creekside Chatter blog has been painlessly - and successfully - migrated from Posterous to Posthaven. As you can see there's not much here in the way of design, but with the April 30th shutdown for Posterous looming, pretty is not the priority right now. It's getting those sites moved off Posterous.

Posthaven site settings
Posthaven site settings screen

Once you get into Posthaven's backend, you immediately see that they are still focused on migration. The settings page is quite sparse and should remain so for some time yet.

Post page view
A view of the posts page in Posthaven.

I do like the clean look - not just here on the posts list page, but also in the editing screen (below). I don't expect Posthaven to be a "full-service" blog platform with every whistle and bell known to man. I want clean and simple - exactly what Posterous provided and what Posthaven plans to deliver.

The Posthaven editor screen.

So, right now you can import up to 10 blogs to Posthaven, create and publish new posts via the web interface and even include images and other media. As of March 27th, the importer component was complete with no reported bugs and they declared the platform officially in a public beta status. It is my understanding that there will be no charges made to blog customers until they exit beta status - expected to happen sometime later this month.

Plans are to have all the capabilities Posterous had, including my favorite - posting via email. These will be announced as they are deployed. All the code is being completely rewritten to take advantage of latest technology so it won't all happen immediately. And, having people dedicated to maintaining and improving the platform will insure this delightful little blog platform stays . . . delightful.

The $5/month cost will get you up to 10 Posthaven blogs. If you want more, you can have them for a small (yet to be determined) price. They are serious about their pledge to keep Posthaven up "forever". Yes, that is quite a commitment, but they are already looking into building a foundation to support the program even if something happens to the developers.

While "free" is always tempting, both Posterous and Google Reader have shown us that free is seldom the best option. Hopefully Posthaven has found the pricing sweet spot that gives us beautiful blogs we can all afford.