Spotify aquired Heardle recently, and when I commented on the news, I was relatively positive in that it seemed like a deal that made sense, at least for Spotify.

However, I must say, since the aquisition, the music choices has been terrible. I know there's going to be days when I can't work out the song, but it's just been absolute nonsense. It's certainly made it a lot less fun.

The Changing Value of App Subscriptions

25th September 2022

I commented earlier on a few apps that I currently subscribe to. But I've now gone through the entire list of my app subscriptions, and I've actually cancelled all but 2 of them.

A few of them were on yearly renewals, so they won't all end immediately. But I've decided that, at least for now, the value they provide me isn't enough to warrant any extra money.

Here is my previous list of subscriptions:

  • Apple One
  • Castro
  • Glass
  • Halide Mark II
  • Tweetbot
  • VSCO
  • Ulysses

I have to note that VSCO was already expiring. I used to use this for photo editing, but I've since moved away.

As of right now, the only subscriptions that aren't expiring are:

  • Apple Music
  • Ulysses

I don't use Apple TV or Arcade, and I already pay for 2TB storage, so Apple One was useless to me. That's been reduced to Apple Music.

And to be honest, I'm also thinking of unsubscribing from Ulysses. I guess I write a fair bit compared to most people. But I don't do anything complex. I write relatively small markdown files, and upload them to my Ghost blog. And £5.99 a month might be a bit too much for my use case.

Forgetting VSCO, a year of my previous subscriptions would have looked like this:

  • Apple One - £239.40 (19.95 monthly)
  • Castro - £33.48 (£2.79 monthly)
  • Glass - £25.99
  • Halide Mark II - £9.99
  • Tweetbot - £5.99
  • Ulysses - £71.88 (£5.99 monthly)

That's £386.73 in a single year. Admittedly a bit portion of that was going towards Apple One. But even the smaller prices can add up after a while.

And after my adjustments, it sits at just £191.76 yearly:

  • Apple Music - £119.88 (9.99 monthly)
  • Ulysses - £71.88 (£5.99 monthly)

A big jump, and like I said earlier, it may be slimmed down even further if I decide to move away from Ulysses.

I don't mean to single out these apps as being objectively bad apps. But for me, they just didn't provide enough value to warrant a subscription fee. £5.99 to use a good Twitter app for an entire year doesn't sound particularly bad. But when the app hasn't received an update in 6 months, and there's free options available, you may start to question it.

Maybe other people feel differently. But as much as I think people should be paid fairly for what they produce. It's got to actually provide value to me. So, as much as I appreciate Glass as a platform, if I don't find myself using the app, I'm just wasting money.

I guess that means I'll have to be a bit more cautious when subscribing to new apps  and services, and maybe not jump into a yearly fee so soon.

I'll have to analyse and evaluate my other subscriptions at some point, such as Netflix, YouTube, etc. But for now, I can at least say that my outgoings have been slightly decreased.

In a recent post, Lee Peterson talked about cutting down on subscriptions, focussing on both Tweetbot and Glass.

I subscribe to both of these, and to be honest, I've jumped in and out of Glass a few times already. I'm not quite sure how much Glass has to me, but at the same time I appreciate the platform itself, so it can always find a way to attract me back.

But as he mentions in his post, Tweetbot hasn't been updated in over 6 months. I just checked my subscriptions, and it appears that mine is a year long subscription that has recently been renewed. So I guess I'll just have to deal with it. But I can imagine, that if you started paying a monthly sub for Tweetbot just 6 months ago, with the concept of this supporting developers to release regular updates, you'd be a bit miffed.

Thoughts on the Apple Event

12th September 2022

I was planning on writing in detail my thoughts on the Apple event, and the products that were announced. However, after I started writing an outline, I noticed a trend. These products aren’t for me, I’m not in the market for them, and they don’t provide enough additional value for me to replace what I currently have.

I didn’t want to create a big negative post about the event, simply because it didn’t cause me to spend my money, but I'll offer a few short opinions on what was announced.

Watch

I’d say this was the biggest part of the event (I don’t know the actual numbers, but it felt that way), and I guess it appears that the Watch has started to mature, and updates to the main watch are iterative at this point. However, the Ultra seems interesting, specifically for more outdoors people that maybe hike or scuba dive. This seems like a niche product to me, so that will be an interesting thing to watch.

AirPods

I can’t say much about the AirPods, except that I’d probably start to at least show an interest if there was a non-in-ear option.

iPhone 14

Similar to the Watch, this is another iterative update. However, I do like a few of the additions.

Firstly, I have to mention the Dynamic Island, it’s a clear improvement, and it’s great to see how the OS handles and actually builds upon the cutout. However, I can’t get over that name.

As for the always-on display, I definitely think there’s some value in that, although I’d only ever know after using it for a while. I have it on my Pixel 6, and it’s been mildly useful to have the time and a few notification icons available, but it looks like the iOS implementation takes it just that bit further.

Final Thoughts

In general, this wasn’t an event for me. Apple’s products seem to all be maturing, and there hasn’t been anything spectacular for a while in my opinion.

But I can’t say that every event Apple do has to be spectacular. The world is built on small, iterative updates. The real problem may be the constant desire for bigger and better.

And to be honest, I don’t even know what I’m looking for in regard to innovation at the moment. Brighter colours? Maybe a different form-factor? I guess I just want something different from the same slab of glass Apple have been selling for quite a few years. Maybe that’s why Android is starting to pique my interest.

iPhone 13 to 14 Price Increase

7th September 2022

The many models of the iPhone 14 have just been announced. However, if you're in the UK, then there's some bad news, everything is more expensive.

Storage iPhone 13 iPhone 14 Difference
128 GB £779 £849 + £70
256 GB £879 £959 + £80
512 GB £1079 £1179 + £100

Storage iPhone 13 Pro iPhone 14 Pro Difference
128 GB £949 £1099 + £150
256 GB £1049 £1209 + £160
512 GB £1249 £1429 + £180
1 TB £1449 £1649 + £200

Storage iPhone 13 Pro Max iPhone 14 Pro Max Difference
128 GB £1049 £1199 + £150
256 GB £1149 £1309 + £160
512 GB £1349 £1529 + £180
1 TB £1549 £1749 + £200

How I Set Up My Ghost Blog to Support Micro Posts

7th September 2022

Yesterday, I configured my blog to support micro posts, and I had a lot of feedback asking, essentially, how I did it. So, I’ve decided to write exactly what I did to enable micro posts on my Ghost blog.

As a side note, my blog is a self-hosted instance of Ghost on Digital Ocean. This is the only way I’ve ever used Ghost, so if you pay for a Ghost instance directly on Ghost.org, then I’m not sure if you will have access to everything a self-hosted instance does.

What Is a Micro Post?

Essentially, a micro post is a blog post without a title, and usually of a very small size. Many people will associate them with Micro.blog. However, you may not realise that Twitter and Tumblr are forms of microblogging too. But the only real limitation that I’ve had to work around in Ghost, is the limitation of a post always needing a title, and the knock on effects of that throughout the feeds, website theme, etc.

How I Distinguish Micro Posts in Ghost

This is probably the simplest part. The way I distinguish micro posts from full post in my blog is with a new tag.

I now have a micro tag, which will be used as the sole tag on any micro post, which the rest of the solution is based on.

Displaying Them Differently on the Website

On my website, you can see that micro posts and full posts are styled slightly differently. The difference is relatively minor, and boils down to the removal of the title, and having the data become the permalink to the post.

This separation is handled via my custom theme, and in two ways.

Firstly, in places where I am building the layout for the post, I added a condition on the post having the micro tag, and then using separate layouts:

{{#has tag="micro"}}
	<!-- Micro post layout -->
{{else}}
	<!-- Full post layout -->
{{/has}}

Most of the differences are handled via the layout, but I also added specific styling for micro posts via CSS.

This is done via the {{post_class}} which I have added to the class of the article element in my post layout:

<article class="{{post_class}}">
	{{> "post-header"}}
	{{content}}
</article>

This results in the following HTML:

<article class="post tag-micro no-image">
	...
</article>

This means you can use the tag-micro class to directly make any style changes.

How Are the RSS Feeds Handled?

As for the RSS feeds, As you may have seen in my earlier post, I have now added three RSS feeds. One for micro posts, another for normal blog posts, and another for all posts. This is handled via Ghost’s Routing system, which I have only discovered recently, but which I currently use to manage my RSS feeds, and a few extra collections on my blog.

As for the routing, this is handled via a yaml file which is managed via the Ghost dashboard under Labs.

In my routes.yaml file, this is the section that contains the configuration for the RSS feeds.

routes:
  /feed/micro/:
    content_type: text/xml
    template: rss-micro
  /feed/:
    content_type: text/xml
    template: rss
  /feed/all/:
    content_type: text/xml
    template: rss-all

As you can see, the paths are defined, along with the content type, but the most important field is template, which refers to a .hbs file in my theme that handles the template for each RSS feed.

Each feed has a separate template, however instead of including each one here, I have uploaded them as GitHub gists to make it easier to see each entire file.

These templates are mostly identical. However, they do all differ on the data that is fetched, and also the title field.

As for the micro post feed, the data that is fetched is the latest 30 posts that have the micro tag. The title element is also left blank.

[...]

{{#get "posts" filter="tag:micro" limit="30" include="authors,tags"}}
	{{#foreach posts}}
	<item>
		<title></title>
		<[...]
	</item>
	{{/foreach}}
{{/get}}

[...]

The feed for the non-micro posts is similar, however has a limit of 15, and will, obviously, fetch all posts that do not have the micro tag.

[...]

{{#get "posts" filter="tag:-micro" limit="15" include="authors,tags"}}
	{{#foreach posts}}
	<item>
		<title><![CDATA[ {{title}} ]]></title>
		[...]
	</item>
	{{/foreach}}
{{/get}}

[...]

As for the combined feed, I have this fetching the most recent 15 posts. But there is also a condition on the micro tag, which is used to show/hide the title.

[...]

{{#get "posts" limit="15" include="authors,tags"}}
	{{#foreach posts}}
	<item>
		{{#has tag="micro"}}
		<title></title>
		{{else}}
		<title><![CDATA[ {{title}} ]]></title>
		{{/has}}
		[...]
	</item>
	{{/foreach}}
{{/get}}

[...]

How Are These Posts Imported to Micro.blog?

Thanks to the magic of Micro.blog, this really didn’t take much effort at all. This is handled via the newly created RSS feed that only contains micro posts.

The character limit of a micro post on Micro.blog is 280, so I have been keeping my micro posts within this limit. But simply by adding this new feed to Micro.blog, the posts are being imported to the platform and appearing on the timeline as if they were written there.

I have a feeling this is down to the lack of a title and the post length being within the limits, so I would assume this is also how it works if you are using another blogging platform.

Real-World Example

I’ve now gone over the work I needed to do to configure my blog to allow for micro posts, which leaves me with the question of how I actually write a micro post.

In the future, I want to try building out a Shortcut that can interact with my blog via an API. However, I have so far been writing them directly in the web editor.

There are just three things that I need to do to make a micro post, and have it handled correctly. Obviously, the post content and the new micro tag, but I also add a title of Micro.

You might wonder why I added a tag, since this whole concept is to have a post without a title. However, a title is still required in Ghost. What I’ve done, is to work around this restriction. In an ideal world, Ghost would remove this restriction, enabling posts with no titles, and then none of this would be necessary.

What this title does, is that it firstly gets around the restriction, but it also takes care of the slug. Because if I keep the title the same for all micro posts, the slug will automatically become micro-1, micro-2, etc. Meaning, I also don’t have to worry about the URLs looking ugly.


I hope this post can be of use to people who want to do the same or similar things with their blogs. But like I said earlier, it would be my preference if Ghost could handle this itself without any workarounds.

If you’re reading this, and you get stuck anywhere, please feel free to leave a comment below, or get in touch via Micro.blog, Twitter, or Email.

Not long until Apple's september event, where we'll likely see new iPhones,  Watch, and AirPods. I've been pessimistic about Apple recently, but there’s still part of me that's hoping for a surprise, and maybe a bit more than iterative updates to existing products.