Conversational Twitter

Twitter is an amazing platform. It's best described as an announcement system, but thanks to a number of creative users, Twitter has become much more. Twitter's developers have taken those ideas and added features to make those creative uses much easier to accomplish. One of those is providing an easy way to display a collection of tweets (Twitter updates) on blogs. Here is one example.

Creating your own display of Twitter updates or conversations is quite easy. All you need to do is past the web address (URL) of the tweet onto a blank line in your blog post. Here are the steps involved. Click on the gallery thumbnails to wall through the demonstration.

Email Posting Goes Live

You can now publish to your Posthaven blogs via email. Doing this is as easy as sending an email message to post@posthaven from the email address you used to register your account. The subject line of your email becomes the title of your post and the content of your message becomes your post's content - including any images, documents or other files you may attach. 

Of course there's a lot more functionality than that. You'll find the details on their Post by Email page. The Posthaven Primer user guide has also been updated to include details on email posting.

Posting Inline Photos by Email

When posting photos via email, all you need to do is drag and drop the image you want to include into your email message. If you attach more than one image file, Posthaven will organize them into a gallery. However, if you include text between each attached image, then those images will be presented inline with your text. Here's what an email message looks like for posting inline photos.

Notice that the photo captions are on a line immediately below the photo but then there's a blank line between the caption and the next photo. Without those blank lines, Posthaven will collect each caption at the top of your post and then organize the images as a gallery.  Below is what the posted results of this email looks like.

View of St. George Street through the St. Augustine City Gates.

The Arrivas House on St. George Street.

Tolomato Lane

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