Six Apart has made an announcement of new capabilities for Typepad:
[via Announcing TypePad Micro]
As part of our ongoing rollout of the NEW TypePad we are pleased to
announce new social blogging features and the launch of TypePad Micro:
a completely free level of TypePad focused on easy sharing of text,
photos, and videos.
A new form of blogging is emerging — somewhere between the status
updates of Facebook and Twitter and the full-length posts of classic
blogs — focused on being easy, fun, and connected. Think of this middle
category as a bridge between blogs and social networks, tapping into
the connectedness of networks with the freedom, control, and
independence of blogs.
TypePad Micro is built for this growing form of blogging, making it
easy for people to curate compelling content from the web — be it text,
photos, or videos — and share it in real-time with people on their blog
and to Facebook and Twitter. We very much see this form of blogging as
a complement to, not a competitor of, these services. Many bloggers
have friends and followers on these great networks but often want to
post more than 140 characters, or share photos and videos, with their
own narrative and their own design.
TypePad Micro comes with a beautiful new theme, Chroma, custom built for this streamlined form of blogging and a new feature: Reblog,
which makes it easy for your blog’s readers to re-post items from your
blog on a blog of their own (think of it as the blogging equivalent of
This micro release of Micro is an effort to go after Tumblr, to catch up to it’s phenomenal growth. And in part, it does so.
The inclusion of the ‘reblog’ social gesture (or function, if you are a functional thinker) is perhaps the single most important aspect of this release. The ‘reblog’ and the ‘like’ gestures are two minimal touches that make Tumblr what it is. Mostly the impact of these social gestures are invisible to people who don’t have their own Tumblr accounts, because behind the open public face of tumbler is second open public sphere, but only seen by Tumblr users. I refer to this as ‘behind the veil’, since it also public, but occluded.
In this social plane of Tumblr, I receive a torrent of posts from those Tumblr blogs I am following, and I can see the social gestures related to the posts I have created. Whenever someone reblogs a post of mine, or ‘likes’ it, that appears as a message in the stream.
As a result of this social stream behind the Tumblr veil is a rich world, where a Tumblr user may spend a great deal of time, reading, examining pictures, seeing reblog notitfications, and so on. Here’s my stream for my /Ambivalence Tumblr blog, leaving out the posts from those I am following:
This is the principal user experience of Tumblr, bathing in the stream of images, text, links, and social gestures flowing from those you follow.
To have it work, you need the ‘reblog’ and ‘like’ social touches (or the Micro ‘favorite’ I guess), as well as a stream view behind the veil. Typepad implemented the stream view sometime ago, and has now closed the loop.
It seems, though, at present only the new Chroma template supports reblogging, which seems odd. Why can’t I just add reblog to my existing Typepad blogs? My sense is that Six Apart are maintaining a conceptual distinction between micro blogging — which Chroma is designed for — and macro or long format blogging. I think this is a meaningless distinction, and that the important thing is the stream behind the veil, for any sort of blog. It represents a new and richer social dimension to the blogging experience.
Here’s a Chroma blog that I created:
It took only a minute to change an existing blog to the Chroma template, and it offered the very cool feature of offering me three color schemes based on the tones in the photo I uploaded as the banner image. You can see the ‘Reblog It’ button at the bottom of the first post.
Note that this post was created in what I consider the most common fashion for ‘tumbling’. I went to my /Ambivalence blog selected a picture I posted there, and I used a Typepad bookmarklet to select that image to post in the /Edgewards blog on Typepad. This is how most Tumblr blog posts are made, aside from reblogging existing Tumblr posts.
I used Typepad’s bookmarklet:
Perhaps this is the only place where Typepad Micro doesn’t operate like a tumblr blog: the posts aren’t typed. In Tumblr, image posts are different from video, audio, quotes, links, and text. Typepad posts, even in Micro’s Chroma template are all the same. In Tumblr, if you descend down into the guts of the template language (a subject too technical and detailed for this post), each of these post types can be managed differently, with different fonts, styling, and layout. Although I have not tried to dive down into Chroma’s template, it doesn’t seem like the system is typed. I predict that Typepad will have to be extended to meet the sophistication available to designers in Tumblr.
Six Apart has added some of the small touches that make Tumblr a rich experience externally, like the ability to create a gallery in photos in a single post, by uploading a series of photos or URLs:
At first inspection, Typepad Micro might add up to something very similar to the internal social experience of Tumblr. The combination of a streaming experience for logged in users and the ‘reblog’ and ‘favorite’ gestures could lead to an experience nearly as rich as Tumblr. However, there are some serious caveats:
- Posts aren’t typed — this will provide a lower lever of design sophistication, even if people can get at the Chroma template’s innards, which I have yet to explore.
- Reblog is not built in to every blog, so even if I am an active Typepad Micro user, I can’t reblog every post of every Typepad blog. It requires the blog’s owner to change to a Micro template, like Chroma. This is a major problem, and will slow the adoption of Micro. At the very least Six Apart should add a reblog capability to the bookmarklet, so that users can reblog all Typepad blog posts. This might even be extended to support reblogging of other blogging platforms’ posts, like Tumblr, Moveable Type, and Wordpress, for example. Ultimately, interoperable reblogging and favoriting are going to be demanded by users. It is a social good for interoperability of this sort to exist. In fact, I am going to kick off a project in Microsyntax.org calling for conventions to be considered that will support this.
- The limitation of a single template supporting Micro is dumb. I already had an issue with the limited number of templates in Typepad, and the fact that they were all so similar. This is due to the fractured model of templates that exists below the hood in Typepad. Better to shift to an open model of templates, with one large text file containing the entire template, instead of a structured model. Again, this is a bit too technical for this forum, but I wanted to include it in my list.
[Update: I learned that Six Apart has in fact set things up so that every blog can have reblog enabled. I have turned this on for /Message, too.]
Six Apart has a long way to go to provide an experience as rich and social as that offered by the much younger Tumblr. But I have to say, they have given me hope that I won’t have to port my /Message blog to Tumblr in order to ultimately have the same depth of experience surrounding my tech blogging as I do on /Ambivalence, where I tumble everything else. Note I don’t say that I blog on /Ambivalence, because the experience is so different, so much more compelling and deep, that it is really something completely different.
I dream of logging into Typepad to have a cascade of other tech writers’ thoughts and commentaries stream past, being able to reblog and comment on these posts in a one step fashion. To be in the stream is just a better experience than wandering around, or reading from RSS tools. Six Apart might be on the way to get me there. I hope so.
I plan — as you might expect — to convert this blog over to Chroma, or something like it, just as soon as I explore the implications in a bit more depth.