Tumblr Sale

News came out recently that Verizon’s Oath unit (which is partly made up of Yahoo’s web assets) sold Tumblr to Automattic (they develop WordPress and run WordPress.com) for $3 million.

Obviously, this is a big drop from Yahoo’s original $1+ billion purchase, but there’s still quite a lot of value to be salvaged from Tumblr. This HN discussion comments that Tumblr is still receiving 2.5+ billion page views per month, which doesn’t even include their mobile views. I see a lot of articles moaning about Tumblr’s problems, but it is still a powerful brand and I’m quite surprised another company didn’t buy it up – $3 million is a firesale price.

Of all the articles discussing Tumblr’s sale, I like this one the best: a post from one of VCs who originally invested in Tumblr. Regardless of what happens to Tumblr, I think it will be remembered as one of the first places to easily and quickly share thoughts, a place which made it easy to create communities and fandoms, and a surprisingly upbeat and positive place compared to other social media sites.

Using The Good Parts Of AWS

There was a fascinating Twitter thread on how to use the “good” parts of AWS, from an ex-AWS engineer:
https://twitter.com/dvassallo/status/1154516910265884672 . Click to expand the below image.

Using the good parts of AWS, from a former AWS engineer.

Bottom line: He recommends building your services to use AWS EC2, DynamoDB, etc but avoiding abstractions such as Lambda and API Gateway. There’s an interesting discussion on this thread on HN:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20545561 .

Cutting More Space Off The Twenty Seventeen WordPress Theme

What drives me crazy about the WordPress Twenty Seventeen theme is that it’s almost the perfect starting theme, but it wastes so much screen real estate – especially in the header.

Here’s CSS to shave off space and makes the header a lot less “aggressive” looking:

div.custom-header {
	text-transform: lowercase;
}

div.site-branding {
	padding-top: 1em;
	padding-bottom: 1em;
	padding-left: 2em;
	padding-right: 2em;
}

h1.site-title {
	text-transform: lowercase;
}

WordPress Twenty Seventeen Theme Page Spacing

I think the WordPress Twenty Seventeen theme is pretty close to the ideal starter WP template – it’s simple yet looks very nice, especially if there’s a nice header image.

One of the major annoyances with using the theme is that there’s so much empty space in a default page. For example, here’s how my /about page looked like with just the default CSS (note how small the “ABOUT” text is, and it’s a H1 heading!):

Picture of unstyled

I added the following custom CSS to help reduce the space and slightly increase the size of the H1 text:

h1.entry-title {
	font-size: large !important;
	font-weight: bolder !important;
}

header.entry-header {
	padding: 0 !important;
	margin: 0 !important;
}

div#content.site-content {
	padding-top: 1em !important;
}

IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding

I was fiddling with code that worked with IBM Watson’s Natural Language Understanding API, and kept getting the following error:

{
    "error": "invalid request: content is empty",
    "code": 400
}

What happened is that I was calling out to IBM using the following requests Python code (post_data represents a Python object being encoded to JSON):

post_data_string = json.dumps(post_data)
requests.post(endpoint, data=post_data_string, timeout=45, auth=(ibm_user, ibm_pass))

However, it seems that the API insists on having the correct request content type set; i.e. you must set Content-Type: application/json for the IBM Watson servers to notice there is a data body in the POST request. I fixed it by using the json parameter – the requests library for Python automatically inserts the application/json content type when this parameter is used. If you use a different language, you’ll need to set the proper content type in the language’s preferred manner.

requests.post(endpoint, json=post_data, timeout=45, auth=(ibm_user, ibm_pass))

Why I Love NewsBlur – Folder RSS

After the closure of Google Reader – which I was a big fan of – I moved all of my RSS feeds to NewsBlur. One of the reasons I moved to NewsBlur is that it has a full API and is very easy to interface with!

For instance, folder feeds are available and don’t require authentication, making it easy for an app to merge multiple RSS feeds and treat them as one. For example: in NewsBlur, I’ve created a folder called economy and set up multiple feeds (New York Times, Forbes, Washington Post Business) underneath that folder, like so:

A Newsblur folder containing multiple feeds.
A Newsblur folder containing multiple feeds.

Right clicking the folder name and clicking folder settings pops up the folder settings tab. The URLs listed in the Feed Address section return a RSS list with all of the items from the feeds combined into a single feed. Even better: the URL supplied doesn’t require authentication, so an application can read it instead of having to poll 5 separate RSS feeds.

Newsblur folder settings screenshot.

Disney Waiting Page

I like to collect examples of error pages, but this is slightly different. When I was browsing Disney.com, I was shown the below page asking me to wait until the request could be completed.

Notice the stylized Space Mountain image in the middle, which helps to customize and personalize the page to the Disney branding. This is a good page to use as a template if you need to build a similar long-waiting page.

Screenshot of a Disney page asking the user to wait while a long-running request executes.
Screenshot of a Disney page asking the user to wait while a long-running request executes.
A close-up of the stylized Space Mountain image, which helps to brand the page with the Disney theme.
A close-up of the stylized Space Mountain image, which helps to brand the page with the Disney theme.

Google Shoppable Ads – Competition For Pinterest

In light of Pinterest’s recent IPO, I wanted to point out an article from Mobile Marketer: https://www.mobilemarketer.com/news/google-pushes-deeper-into-visual-search-with-shoppable-ads-in-images/549957/ .

Monetizing Pinterest will largely come down to showing relevant ads within user searches – for example, showing an ad for wedding supplies within an user search for wedding ideas. However, we see Google moving into this business as well, as highlighted in the above article. Google will be showing more ads within Google Images searches – but more importantly – those ads will be image based, which should help clickthrough and purchase rates.

I fully expect Pinterest to thrive and grow, but we’ll be seeing a fair bit of competition from Google and others as well.

Amazon Error Pages

As I’ve said before, I love documenting error pages from popular web sites: they often have a sense of humor or show off another face of the company.

Here’s an example of an Amazon error page. What a handsome looking dog!

An Amazon error page.