The Post-Posterous World

Posterous, which was my favorite among the many hosted blogging platforms of the past few years, recently announced that it will shut down on 30 Apr, a little over a year after the company was acquired by Twitter. If you’ve got any blogs running on the service, there are instructions on requesting archives here, though be forewarned that the process of generating the archives may take several hours or more.

Also included at that link are instructions on moving your Posterous content to both WordPress and Squarespace. Either of these options are more than capable substitutes for Posterous’ functionality. But for me, the demise of Posterous means there’s really no reason to continue avoiding Tumblr.

(To be clear, this blog you’re reading is run on ExpressionEngine. I’ve been using services like Posterous for peripheral blogs that I keep mostly for my own amusement. More in this blog post from last year.)

Unfortunately, Posterous conspicuously omitted notes on how to move your blogs to Tumblr. Given the past rivalry between the two services, that’s probably understandable. Thankfully, the folks at Indian startup 3crumbs have put together Just Migrate, a simple Web-based tool that will copy all of your Posterous content to a Tumblr blog more or less effortlessly. Tumblr places some restrictions on how much content can be imported at once, and the demand on Just Migrate is already so great that the service is currently maxed out. I was lucky enough to get my migration done over the weekend, but if you get into their queue today, yours should be done well before Posterous’ 30 Apr shutdown date.

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Basic Maths Now for WordPress.com

I have some great news for those interested in using Basic Maths, the WordPress theme that I developed with Allan Cole. Where previously the theme required that users run their own instances of the WordPress publishing system on their own server — still a daunting task for most people — starting today, that’s no longer the case.

As just announced, users of the hosted blogging service WordPress.com can now purchase Basic Maths as a premium theme, complete with support direct from the WP Theme Team, for US$75. No more server administration or tricky technical hurdles; WordPress.com now lets you install this theme quickly and easily and with no fuss. This has been the number one query that Allan and I have gotten from the public since we first launched Basic Maths in November of 2009, so we’ve very happy that now it’s easier than ever to get up and running with our creation. Get started with it in the WordPress.com Theme Showcase.

Of course, users who prefer to run WordPress on their own can still purchase the theme direct from us for just US$45. Get your copy or find out more over at the Basic Maths site.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who took part in last week’s Basic Maths sale, in which all of the proceeds went to disaster relief in Japan. We managed to raise over US$1,500, an amazing sum. I’m incredibly grateful that people were able to contribute and that we were able to help in some small way.

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Secret Lives of Comic Book Panels

I’m so thankful for the day that someone had the idea to combine blogging and comics. For instance, for the past several months I’ve been really enjoying 4CP, a tumblelog-style site that examines vintage comic books — or parts of them — with a curatorial eye. Each post is a detail from a decades-old comic book panel, shown in a kind of extreme focus that reveals the beauty of the ink lines, the textures of the paper and of course the distinctive color halftone screens that are the hallmark of cheap four-color printing.

The images are cropped with great artfulness, and manage to find moments of quiet and restfulness within a style of artwork that has always been about frantic motion, kinetic energy and physical action. Some of the pieces look downright still, as if they were somehow captured from the hidden moments that occur between panels. Even better: clicking on the images reveals high-resolution versions of many of them, where you get an even closer look at the fine details of the substrate and the effect becomes even more immersive.

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Adding Up Basic Maths

Since last November’s release of Basic Maths — the commercially-available, Subtraction.com-based theme for WordPress that I designed and developed with Allan Cole — I’ve been asked from time to time by friends and acquaintances how well it’s fared. My answer is usually that sales have been healthy but not spectacular, that I’m satisfied with the revenue that the theme has brought in, but also that it’s hardly enough for me to quit my day job.

As soon as I started having these conversations I began to realize that very few people really have a sense of what makes for a successful commercial theme, at least not numbers-wise. This included me, too, especially at the outset of my foray into the market, when my most specific ambition was basically ‘to sell a lot.’ Now with a little bit of experience under my belt, I certainly have a better idea of how to define success, but it’s based exclusively on my own personal experiences selling Basic Maths, with the benefit of very little if any intelligence from other commercial theme developers.

With that in mind, I decided early on that, when I had a sufficient amount of sales data logged, I’d try and share it so that others might benefit from it. Basic Maths was released on 14 Nov of last year, so there’s just over four months of records available to me; not a tremendous amount, but certainly enough to draw some early lessons regarding how theme sales work.

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Get Fresh with Me

AIGA New YorkThe evening of next Wednesday, 16 December, I’ll have the honor of being on stage as a guest for AIGA New York’s twenty-fifth annual Fresh Dialogue event, alongside Tina Roth Eisenberg of Swiss Miss, Allan Chochinov of Core77 and Josh Rubin of Cool Hunting. Our mandate will be to cast an eye on the design world through the lens of each of our respective blogs, and to take a look at how social media is impacting the way design is practiced. The evening will be hosted by the design writer, critic and chair of SVA’s Masters in Design Criticism program, the remarkable Alice Twemlow. It’s going to be a blast.

Find out more about the event and register for your tickets here.

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Care and RSS Feeding

Mea culpa: I messed up on the feeds for this site during my move over to ExpressionEngine. It’s embarrassing, really, how badly I underestimated how important the RSS feed for this site had become in the many intervening years since I first set it up. It’s funny, too: countless hours were spent on tidying up all of the many, many Web pages that make up this site, and yet it’s really the nearly invisible — and in many respects, design-free — RSS feed that is the most critical lifeline for readers.

The fact is, I just don’t have enough expertise to competently manage and edit my feeds beyond very basic editing of existing templates. For the most part, I’ve always stumbled my way into some kind of acceptable solution, and that was my approach when I re-launched this site on Monday evening. It’s true that there were many things throughout that needed further attention and that I thought that was perfectly fine — there was no way I’d ever launch if I waited until they were all done — but a defective feed should not have been one of them.

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Greatly Exaggerated

Here’s what happens sometimes: you try your hand at blogging. You get kind of good at it and get on a roll for, oh, six or seven years. You start getting more enterprising with your blogging, maybe even launching a second or third blog, and you start to upgrade your blog software, with plans to make everything faster, better. It all looks like it’s going to be great. You’re unstoppable.

Then you get incredibly busy at work. Ridiculously busy. And then maybe you meet a really awesome new person, and you rearrange most all of the priorities governing your free time. And then you and your new girlfriend even decide to shack up, get an awesome new place and make a happy little home together. Then you spend several weekends in a row packing, then moving, then unpacking and setting up the new apartment and making runs to Ikea and Home Depot.

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Subscribing to RSS Theory

You know that drawer you have in your kitchen that’s full of rubber bands, pens, take-out menus, birthday candles, miscellaneous kitchen utensils, string, magnets and all sorts of other junk? That, to me, is what my RSS reader feels like. No matter how much I try to organize it, it’s always in disarray, overflowing with unread posts and encumbered with mothballed feeds.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been spending chunks of time here and there trying to clean out the drawer, so to speak, organizing the many, many feeds that I’ve haphazardly stashed inside various folders and subfolders within NetNewsWire. My goal has been to group them into some sort of hierarchy that will allow me to make better use of them, to cluster them together logically. Not necessarily by content type, but rather in use-oriented ways, like how often they’re published or how often I tend to read them.

The whole process frustrates me though, mostly because I feel like I shouldn’t have to do it at all. The software should just do it for me. I acknowledge that some customization is often — if not always — necessary to get the most efficient use out of any given software. But moreso than with most classes of software, it’s my feeling that RSS readers shortchange users with only half of the features we need to get the job done.

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My Time Away from Blogging

For like two weeks I’ve been tinkering with a draft of a new blog post, but I can’t seem to get it done. As time goes by, I get more and more skeptical of whether or not I can bang it into good enough shape to somehow qualify as a sufficiently worthy ‘comeback post.’ To plausibly excuse my little hiatus away from blogging, I feel compelled to return to the fray with nothing less than a screed that’s somehow good enough. Whatever that means, I haven’t quite got it, I know.

Not to say that I’m taking all of this so seriously. In fact, I think I’m taking this weblog less seriously than I have before. I admit sheepishly that there was a time, a few years ago, when blogging was one of the most important things in any given day of my life. And sometimes, often enough to be regrettable, it disproportionately dominated my priorities when it really shouldn’t have.

So there are a lot of reasons I’m not blogging right now with quite the alacrity that I have in the past. My day job is busier than ever at the moment, seemingly (and piled on, this week anyway, with extracurricular questions and answers). The weather’s turned nice in New York, too. Finally there’s daylight when I climb out of the subway from my evening commute, and I can wear a tee-shirt to walk Mister President even when the thermometer hits the day’s lows — which I would rather do than sitting in front of my computer. Also, I finally realized: living life is more important than blogging about design.

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