Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web

Reminders why blogs remain relevant despite social media

Here’s another reminder by Chris Maiorana why blogs remain relevant despite social media that arguably makes it easier to share with each other:

Those of us who take the idea of democratic publishing seriously rejoice at how the field has opened to include anyone who has something to say and is willing to write it down. That’s why we should be more alarmed when we see social media companies crowd the spaces once occupied by blogs and do-it-yourself content creators. We see a decline in diverse opinions as the web quickly becomes less free and more autocratic.

Bringing Back Blogs in the Age of Social Media Censorship – WordPress Tavern

I’ve also added Cal Newport’s “‘Expert Twitter’ Only Goes So Far. Bring Back Blogs in WIRED” to Pocket to read a bit later.

These calls to blog more aren’t new, just as assertions that blogs are irrelevant in a time when we can share anything with millions (hypothetically) on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and <insert name of hot new social service here> aren’t new either.

Yes, I’m biased given who I work for, and the fact that I still blog (somewhat irregularly). At the same time, does that detract the assertion that blogs remain relevant despite social media? I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that they aren’t.

In many respects, you just can’t beat blogs’ combination of having your own space to publish to, open platforms to power that publishing (such as WordPress), and the flexibility to communicate your ideas in a way that does justice to what you have to say.

On a related note, I also recommend reading Chris Hardie’s post titled “Multimedia journalism and the WordPress block editor“. The more time I spend with the block editor, the more I believe that it’s truly transformational, even at this early stage of its evolution, and despite the initial learning curve.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Publishing Social Web

The blog helped build the Web, not break it

I read some wonderful ideas about personal sites as cultivated digital gardens over the weekend (here, here, here, and here), and one post that was linked to in one of these posts caught my attention. It was Amy Hoy’s post titled “Stacking the Bricks: How the Blog Broke the Web“.

We built every new page by hand. When we had more than one web page, we built the navigation by hand. We managed our Table of Contents by hand. We broke out our calculators to code boundaries for our image maps. We talked unironically about “hyperlinks.”

Stacking the Bricks: How the Blog Broke the Web

I remember those early days of the public Web, with the myriad flashing banners, and GIFs all over the place. It wasn’t quite as romantic back then, hacking together sites with the available HTML elements, and trying not to go too crazy with the flashy graphics.

People built sites like that because that was pretty much the only way to do it. It wasn’t easy to build a site. Domains were freakishly expensive, bandwidth was terrible by today’s standards, and building some sort of social fabric for the Web back then was daunting. As Amy explained –

The early web itself, of course, was pretty exclusive: first, you had to be online, then you had to know HTML, and that wasn’t enough, you also had to have a hosting account, and know how to use it. There was no royal road. Each would-be Netizen had to bushwhack their own path.

Blogs changed all of that, and gave more people a much easier way to build their own space on the Web. Sure, many looked pretty similar because templates and themes were a little sparse, but these were spaces that non-coders could create (mostly), and make their own.

Sure, it’s fun to get your hands dirty with HTML, CSS, and other cool Web tools (and there are remarkable sites built on open standards, and that don’t run on CMSes like WordPress), but that’s not a viable option for millions of people who are online today.

No, the blog didn’t break the Web, it changed the Web. It turned the Web into a platform for just about everyone with a smartish device, and a decent Internet connection.

Not all the content on the modern Web is good. There’s plenty of trashy content out there. There’s even more wonderful content that people invest so much effort, creativity, and passion into.

There are no more quirky homepages.

There are no more amateur research librarians.

All thanks to a quirky bit of software produced to alleviate the pain of a tiny subset of a very small audience.

That’s not cool at all.

I disagree. The Web that blogs made possible is not what Hoy describes as the “old web, the cool web, the weird web, the hand-organized web”. It’s much more than that. It’s inspiring.


Disclosure

I work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, and home of many incredible WordPress developers. I wrote this post using the block editor that I believe is borderline revolutionary.

I’ve also been blogging (erratically) for more than 16 years. So, yes, I’m biased towards blogs.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Publishing

Still working on a more convenient publishing workflow on mobile

My publishing workflow for my site on desktop is convenient enough. I’d love to be able to share on mobile as conveniently. I’m just not there yet. That’s probably why this quote resonates with me:

This is important. I need to enjoy the workflow and publishing experience. For me, it’s technical and I want to have complete control. I don’t want to publish on a platform like medium and I actually enjoy some of the hacking around of having control of my own site.

🖋 Stop Giving af and Start Writing More

It certainly helps to have the block editor in the mobile WordPress.com app. The block editor, generally, makes publishing easier on WordPress sites.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Publishing

It makes no difference

This quote echoes my inner musings about my blog lately (as much as I love having my own space on the Web):

Seriously, who cares when anything on my site got posted. For the vast majority of things I’m writing it makes absolutely no difference what-so-ever.

 My blog is a digital garden, not a blog

Leaving that aside, I still feel like I want to post more stuff on my site. I come across stuff that I want to share all the time.

I just don’t share as much because it feels like a lot of work to share a video, or random link though a blog post with a title, taxonomy, formatting, and stuff.

I also don’t want to just tweet stuff into the social void either.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Coding Design Education People Tutorials

How Wes Bos built his new site

I’ve followed Wes Bos for a couple years now. I bought several of his courses, and look forward to when I have time to do his Beginner JavaScript — Learn JavaScript from Scratch course. He recently rebuilt his personal site using Gatsby.JS, and published both a post and a video explaining how he did it:

The details of his site are pretty technical, and the code is available on GitHub if you want to fork the repo, and take a closer look yourself.

I don’t see myself reproducing what he’s done, and building a new site for myself in the foreseeable future. That said, I have tremendous respect for Wes Bos, and how he approaches his work.

He shares openly, offers pricing for his courses that make it much more affordable (I especially appreciate that), and he produces really good quality content.

If you’re interested in how to build a really fast, static site using the Gatsby.JS framework, definitely take a look at his post and video tour. If you’re interested in learning how to code in JavaScript and JavaScript frameworks like React, check out his courses.


🖼 Featured image credit: Wes Bos (I took this version from his GitHub repo).

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web Useful stuff

How to send a Webmention in comments?

I’ve had Webmentions enabled on this site for some time now. Sending a Webmention is pretty straightforward thanks to plugins like Webmention for WordPress and Semantic-Linkbacks. The question is how to send Webmentions in comments when someone replies to one of my posts? 🤔

I reached out to Chris Aldrich on Twitter, and he pointed me to a few resources in response. I did some testing between two test sites, and sent a couple replies to the initial Webmention (that came through as a comment), like these:

Unfortunately, the Webmentions appear like this on the post I’m replying to:

That’s not especially informative, though.

I’m aiming for a more substantive mention/comment like this:

Chris’ reply originated from his post on his site, here:

I’m pretty sure I’m missing something on my side. I’ll keep digging, and update this post when I find a solution.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Mathyas Kurmann
Categories
Blogs and blogging Business and work Creative expression

Build a membership site with recurring payments

We launched a new Recurring Payments feature for self-hosted WordPress.org sites (powered by Jetpack) or WordPress.com sites today. It’s an awesome new way for anyone with a paid WordPress.com plan to earn money through their sites.

Our new Recurring Payments feature for WordPress.com and Jetpack-powered sites lets you do just that: it’s a monetization tool for content creators who want to collect repeat contributions from their supporters, and it’s available with any paid plan on WordPress.com.

Let your followers support you with periodic, scheduled payments. Charge for your weekly newsletter, accept monthly donations, sell yearly access to exclusive content — and do it all with an automated payment system.

A New Way to Earn Money on WordPress.com — The WordPress.com Blog

The model is similar to Patreon in that you can give your fans a way to support you with recurring payments. This is a great way to build an income through your site.

Here are a few things you can do with this new feature (borrowing from our announcement post):

  • Accept ongoing payments from visitors directly on your site.
  • Bill supporters automatically, on a set schedule. Subscribers can cancel anytime from their WordPress.com account.
  • Offer ongoing subscriptions, site memberships, monthly donations, and more, growing your fan base with exclusive content.
  • Integrate your site with Stripe to process payments and collect funds.

One reason I really like the Recurring Payments feature is that it gives anyone with a paid plan (whether it’s a WordPress.com Personal plan, or a higher plan) a way to create a membership site that can help them grow a following, and a new income stream.

Ad revenue is a popular way of earning money through your site (we offer a WordAds ad platform, for example), but ad revenue really depends on substantial numbers of visitors to turn into meaningful income.

On the other hand, receiving recurring payments from a smaller group of passionate supporters just seems to be more sustainable, and meaningful.

It’s hard to be creative when you’re worried about money. Running ads on your site helps, but for many creators, ad revenue isn’t enough. Top publishers and creators sustain their businesses by building reliable income streams through ongoing contributions.

This new feature empowers creators, bloggers, knowledge workers, <insert your title here> to share something of value with your audience, and build a sustainable business in the process.

Find out more here: Recurring Payments — Support — WordPress.com.

Featured image by Nicholas Green
Categories
Blogs and blogging Design

My new Twenty Twenty look

I decided to switch my site over to the new Twenty Twenty theme that will be released with WordPress 5.3 next week. I downloaded a pre-release version from the GitHub repo, and uploaded it directly.

A fresh coat of Twenty Twenty

I like the default themes that ship with WordPress, and the themes that our team is building. Even though the new generation of themes aren’t perfect*, they’re built for the block editor. I keep forgetting how much flexibility that brings to WordPress.

Preview of the Twenty Twenty theme.

So far, I like this new theme. I think the content container is a bit narrow on a larger screen, so I may tweak that a bit. The mobile view is pretty great, though.

Main image by Anna Kolosyuk

For example, I’d love to see custom fonts return to the Customizer, although with Full Site Editing on the way, we won’t be using the Customizer for much longer.