Six Apart News & Events: April 2008

Hell no, personal sites aren't dead!

A few days ago, venerable web designer (and standards advocate) Jeffrey Zeldman posted "The vanishing personal site". Jeffrey lamented the fact that a lot of people who, in the past, might have made personal web sites are instead sharing their thoughts, ideas and creations on social networking sites that they don't control. His post inspired an important conversation across the blogosphere and in media like Wired, which asked the question, "Is the all-in-one personal website headed for extinction?"

Our answer is: Hell no. Six Apart is a company founded in the rich tradition of personal sites on the web. Members of our team have been publishing personal sites continuously for a decade or more. We know that blogs have inherited the mantle of the personal website. We believe fundamentally in people controlling their own information online, and think this makes our platforms better for everyone from individuals to businesses.The promise, the greatest potential, of the web from its very beginning was that any of us could share and connect with friends, family, coworkers, colleagues or strangers around the world using websites and tools that we own and control ourselves.

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We love social networking sites. We think they let us do great things. So we've spent years inventing the technology that lets any of us fully participate in social networking sites while still having full control of our information on today's personal sites. And today, we call these ultimate personal sites blogs.

This isn't just about aggregation. This is about smart, two-way connections between blogs as independent personal sites and the entire universe of social networking sites. It's an idea that's been referred to by many names, including "unified social networking", but it's a vision that's shared by any of us who have experienced that signature first moment of realization about a website: "I could make one of these!"

Connecting your blog to everything you do around the web

This isn't just some philosophical discussion -- we've already launched a number of projects to fulfill this vision of new, smarter personal sites that understand the world of social software. And the reality is, your friends are only going to belong to more and more social networks; The most popular networking sites change every year, but the fact that there are increasing numbers of networks doesn't. So here's what we've done to make it all manageable, and to let you use all of these sites while still having your data and your activity live on your own personal site.

  • Action Streams: This system, first available as a completely free and open source Movable Type plugin, lets you aggregate your activity from over 50 social sites across the web. And it's easy to add new services, so when community members wanted to import TripIt journeys or Fire Eagle locations or Amazon wishlists, they just get plugged into the system.
  • Blog It: Blog It is a free Facebook application that posts to your blog or microblogging service, keeping all your networks in sync. And when we say "your blog", we don't just mean our platforms -- Blog It, while powered by TypePad, works with Blogger and WordPress and Twitter and Pownce, in addition to Movable Type and TypePad and Vox. But a picture's worth a thousand words: Check out the Blog It introduction video to see for yourself.
  • Opening the Social Graph: One key aspect of controlling your social networking behavior on your own site is that you have to be able to declare and manage your relationships on your own site. We've worked with the entire community to enable this kind of data sharing while preventing any ugly surprises that can happen when you inadvertently reveal relationship information you didn't intend to share. That's been a consistent theme ever since we were the only partner to provide a completely opt-in implementation of Facebook's "Beacon".
  • Profiles Elsewhere: Every one of our platforms, from Movable Type to TypePad to Vox, has the simple but essential ability to publish links to a list of your profiles on other services. It's easy to take these little bits of connection for granted, but expressing those relationships in a format that web software can understand sets the groundwork for future innovations. And it takes a big step towards your personal site being the place that people go first to find you online, instead of a social networking site you don't control.
  • OpenID: We invented OpenID at Six Apart with the fundamental concept is that your web address is part of your identity, just like an email address. It's a point that's obvious to any of us who use our personal web sites on our business cards (or Moo cards!) to tell people who we are, but OpenID takes that concept and bakes it into the technological underpinnings of the web. And every one of our platforms has OpenID built-in, with more and better support to come in the future.
  • OAuth: This is sort of the software-focused counterpart to OpenID, based on the idea that smart services should automatically integrate into your blogging platform. Vox has done this since it was created -- you can insert Flickr photos or YouTube videos as easily as if they were built directly into Vox itself. And all of this is done with the idea that you shouldn't have to share your password just to share your ideas.
Of course, there's a lot more to come. All of these technologies are available today and are generally free and open source. Most importantly, all of this work speaks to our belief that our innovations should support independent personal web sites, and should honor the tradition of creative individuals being able to fully participate in the web while still retaining complete control and ownership over their ideas and information.

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But there's a lot more to do: New networks are popping up every day, and we need to invent ways for us to have even more control over the neverending competition for our attention. There are a whole set of new challenges that we couldn't have imagined in the days when personal sites seemed like the simple and obvious way to have a presence online. The chanegs since then, though, highlight an important new opportunity: Personal websites aren't vanishing, they're evolving. We simply won't let something so important and essential to the web disappear.

In The Great Cities of the World...

There are many incredible cities around the world that are known for leadership in culture, finance, the arts, or technology. But any list of the world's great cities would certainly include Tokyo, Paris, New York and San Francisco. That's why we're so proud to have a Six Apart presence in all of these cities, and in so many places in between.

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What's been amazing to see is that, despite the differences in language, culture, and community in each city, our team has kept some common traits that seem to be universal. There are some serious geeks in every office, hacking on the latest technology, and they work alongside amazingly talented business people, passionate designers, and of course dedicated bloggers. Every office also seems to feature a few multi-lingual superstars who speak two or three or four of the languages that we do business in.

Surprisingly, Six Apart people worldwide aren't just smart, they're also often smart-asses, too, with a sarcastic but still playful and fun sense of humor in all of our offices. Whether it's loving good food or playing Nintendo games or trading cycling tips or sharing music recommendations or just keeping tabs on the latest in the blogosphere, the connections between each of our offices go well beyond the usual stuff like technology or business planning, and into some really great human connections about what we find in common regardless of culture. (It probably helps that we have a ton of blogs inside the company and on the public web that keep us in touch.)

As you'd expect, each of our offices has its own web presence, too. They each reflect the personality and focus of our various teams, with a unique local flavor.

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You don't have to take our word for  it -- you can see for yourself on our various sites:
And of course, our Six Apart blog that's the voice of our world headquarters has recently been completely redesigned, too. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that we're hiring, but perhaps the greatest thing about having a worldwide presence for Six Apart is that it's made our products better, made our business stronger, and most importantly made our company an even more exciting and inspiring place to work for those of us who get to collaborate with our coworkers all around the world.

At Your Service: The Next Evolution of Six Apart

Five years ago this week, we announced one of the biggest milestones in our company history, including the creation of TypePad and our transformation from two bloggers with a powerful platform to a company dedicated to bringing the power of blogging to the world. Back then, we built our business by offering simple services like installation of blogging software, or by providing access to the Recently Updated list (which still lives on the Movable Type homepage) to help promote your content. And all of this was enhanced by being the first company to really dedicate itself to provide world-class support for blogging software. In short, we complemented our core technologies with services aimed at helping you launch a blogensuring the success of your blog and backing it with professional support once it was launched.

Today, we make a return to those roots, but in a way that's evolved just as much as blogging has in the past five years. Thanks in no small part to our amazing community of users, blogs have become the core of social communications online, powering rich communities and enabling publishers to connect with audiences in new ways. So today, we're connecting with our blogging community in two new ways with the launch of Six Apart Services and Six Apart Media.

Six Apart Services: Building the Best Blogs

Six Apart Services offers design, development, implementation and integration services to build blog-powered communities for publishers, companies, and major bloggers. Our services team is dedicated to bringing all the power of social communication to every blogging community, using Six Apart platforms in connection with all of today's leading web technologies. The best part is, we're not starting from scratch with our services effort, we're starting with the best.

Six Apart Office LocationsThe core of the Six Apart Services team comes to us from Apperceptive, the renowned New York City experts who've helped build amazing blog-powered communities for sites including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, BoingBoing, Major League Baseball, iVillage, Gothamist, Serious Eats and many more. You can see just some of their clients listed on their site. Just as exciting, the Apperceptive acquisition marks the opening of our New York location, which adds the latest to the list of great cities of the world which have Six Apart offices, including San Francisco, Paris and Tokyo. (Did we mention we're hiring?)

The Six Apart Services team includes some of the most talented blogging developers and consultants, not just in the Movable Type or TypePad communities, but in the world. And they'll be working closely with the Professional Network community where they got their start, to help grow the entire market for blog consulting and implementation services.

Six Apart Media: Making Your Blog a Success

To complement the blog-building power of Six Apart Services, we've also created a new group dedicated to ensuring your success as a blogger: Six Apart Media. As a company founded by bloggers, for bloggers, we know better than anyone else that there are as many definitions of "success" as there are blogs. So we've come up with a powerful suite of services to help your site kick butt.

There's a new premium advertising program that offers more control over the advertising on your blog, and our goal is to help you produce more revenue than the simple ubiquitous text ads that you might otherwise be using. Plus, you don't have to use Six Apart blogging tools to profit from our advertising program. But you may have to be patient -- we're rolling the program out gradually to make sure we take good care of our bloggers and advertisers as we get started.

Design to InspireThat brings up an important point about our advertising program: We have a unique understanding of how blogging works, and that makes us a better partner for advertisers, too. You can read exactly why we're better for advertisers, but the bottom line is that we've got years of expertise as leaders in the blogging industry, and that lets us combine blogs with social media, social networking and advertising in a way that only native bloggers can.

Of course, success isn't just about money. For many bloggers, the goal is traffic or influence or simply a connection to a community. So we're creating a suite of VIP services aimed at helping you achieve your goals, using our tools and expertise. Combined with our new offerings as part of Six Apart Services, it's a dramatic expansion of the professional support offering that's always distinguished Six Apart products.

A Return To Our Roots

As we mentioned, this is in some way a return to our roots: We're going far beyond just having the best blogging platforms around, and are determined to meet our obligation to serve every blogger. Our community deserves nothing less for having helped make us the most successful company in blogging worldwide.

But this is also about showing that, even five years after we dedicated ourselves to the idea of building a company that makes great blogging tools, we're more passionate than ever about the power of blogging. You can see it in innovative technology efforts like Action Streams, unique features like our mobile and iPhone applications, or exciting new open applications like Blog It. It's there in the firm commitments we've made to making 2008 TypePad's best year ever, and investing in making Movable Type even more open, powerful and easy. You can even find it in our renewed embrace of great design and that little bit of competitive fire that fuels our work.

We want to honor the incredible, inspirational efforts of bloggers who've motivated us over the years by once again reinventing part of Six Apart in a way that stays true to our roots as bloggers. So today, we're adding new services that we know will enable even more people and organizations tap into the power of blogging. Now we hope you'll let us know how we can be of service.

Bringing Blogging To Your Social Networks

First, we brought all your social networks to your blog with Action Streams. Today, we start to complete the circle.

Ever stopped to think about how many places on the web you post about your life? For many of us, we're posting on multiple blogs, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Pownce. That's a lot of time spent just to make sure all of our friends and family across the web are caught up on our lives. And while it's incredibly important to stay connected to everyone, at Six Apart, we don't think it should have to be quite so complicated to do so. That is why tonight we've taken another step in our ongoing effort to create better tools for bloggers, no matter what publishing platforms you use. We want to make blogging better for everyone.

We are excited to launch the first cross-platform blogging application for Facebook -- Blog It Powered by TypePad. We think Blog It brings some of the best social aspects of Facebook to blogging, making it easy to blog from within Facebook and tell people you know all around the web that you're doing so. It doesn't matter if you blog using our products or not; we support bloggers on Blogger, LiveJournal, Movable Type, Pownce, Tumblr, TypePad, Twitter, Vox, WordPress.com and WordPress.org!

Plus, after you've posted using Blog It, you can choose to automatically share your post via Twitter and Pownce, in addition to the Facebook Newsfeed. While a lot of other Facebook applications rely solely on the Newsfeed to share your activity, we think that Blog It is unique in that it helps you tell everyone you know across the web about what you're creating, not just your Facebook friends. Bloggers, such as our own Alex Deve, have seen a significant increase in traffic when they tell their friends on Twitter about their new posts.

Ready to try it out? Just add the Blog It application on Facebook and take a minute to setup your blogs. From there you can create new blog posts and share them with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Pownce all just by checking a few extra boxes. Or if you're not convinced yet then sit back, break out the pop corn and watch this short movie...

You can learn more about Blog It at http://www.typepad.com/features/blogit.html or read the press release we'll be putting out in the morning.

Heading into Spring with MLBlogs

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The Major League Baseball season has begun and everyone at Apperceptive HQ has a smile on their face. Sure, a new beginning yields boundless optimism from our baseball fans, but it's the launch of MLBlogs that's making us happy.

For the last few seasons, fans have had the chance to create blogs branded with their favorite team's logo and colors, but the system was ready for an upgrade. Apperceptive couldn't pass up the opportunity to help. We moved the bloggers from Typepad to a brand new install of MT4 that is hosting hundreds of active blogs, created four new template sets for each of the 30 teams, built a slew of new plugins to allow instant access to existing MLB.com users (among other features) and paved the way for new features in the coming seasons. Best of all, it's free to anyone with an MLB.com account. Congrats to the MLBlogs team on a fabulous new community.