“Create the kind of communities and ideas you want people to talk about”

A fountain of water, shot at a relatively high shutter speed

I’ve had an idea in my task list for a week or so now, and I just haven’t made the time to write about it, at least not as I originally intended when I read the post that inspired it.

Jamie Rubin wrote his post titled “A Vision for Blogging in 2019” a few weeks ago. He wrote about a return, of sorts, to blogging, and a different perspective on what blogging means to him:

I’m not farming, but reading and writing are my analogs. I like the tone White captured in his essays, and while I am no E. B. White, it is that sense of making the mundane interesting–in reading, in writing, and anything else that comes to mind–that I am aiming for. That’s my vision for this blog in 2019. I hope you’ll stick around for it.

Jamie Rubin

What appeals to me about his vision for his blog is a focus on writing about personal topics, that have significance to him. I’ve seen a lot of talk about this approach to blogging, lately.

Someone else who wrote about this sort approach is Georgie Luhur Cooke who I mentioned previously. Georgie shared her blogging values, and one of those values is that she intends blogging for as long as she enjoys doing it:

Many people have asked if I would stop blogging if no-one read my blog. Although I love my readership and they often influence my decision on what/how to do things on my blog because I care about them – ultimately I write for me. I don’t write for anyone else, and the fact that people love to read my blog only makes it clearer to me that I should continue doing what I love – not continue doing something because other people like it.

Georgie Luhur Cooke

This evening I was flipping through my feeds while I waited for our kids to prepare for bed, and I came across this post by Jason Kottke titled “14 Rules for Maintaining Your Sanity Online“, that quoted from an issue of Discourse. One of the rules caught my attention:

Create the kind of communities and ideas you want people to talk about.

Sean Blanda

It reminds me a little about the excellent advice I was once given. The context was different, but I think it’s relevant to blogging, and what could be construed as my tenuous vision for my blog (at least for the time being).

It’s often tempting to hammer out a post about something that upsets me, or something that’s controversial. There are times to write about upsetting things that matter, sure. At the same time, many of the posts I feel the urge to write would just amount to me lashing out at someone, or something through my blog.

Those sorts of posts would very much be driven by bitterness, and would ultimately detract from the more positive, and constructive stuff I occasionally write here.

There but for the grace of God go you.

Sean Blanda

So when I write something for my blog, I increasingly find myself thinking along the lines of writing something that makes a positive contribution in some way. For the most part, I’m the main recipient of that contribution because I find myself writing about things that I enjoy, people that inspire me, and themes that fascinate me.

And, yes, there are times when I also publish utter nonsense, devoid of any value to anyone (for example, much of 2004 till roughly mid-2006) but, hey, that’s also blogging. It’s imperfect, and definitely a work in progress (with times of regress).

I’m enjoying my blog lately. I’m not sure what changed for me, but I’m just going with it.

I sat down with my notebook recently when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed about life, work, family, and the Universe in general. I sketched out the things that are important to me, looking ahead.

I felt like I really needed to shift to my high altitude view of my life for a bit, and identify some priorities, so I could set aside all the other themes/goals/impulses that make me crazy, and mostly ineffective.

One of my priorities is my blog. Partly that’s because I’m enjoying it. It’s also because I wanted something I could turn to that feels good to do, for various reasons, and also helps me be better.

One of the ways that I feel that I can do that is to write about the things that I’d like to see people talking about. Or, put a better way, I’d like to write about the things that I’d like to have more discussions about because they interest me, fascinate me, or otherwise enrich me.

More thoughts about Micro.blog as an indie social network

Brad Enslen is doing some great work over at Micro.blog, spreading the word about this innovative service. He published a post titled “The Case for Moving Your Social Network to Micro.blog“, that’s pretty self-explanatory.

I think there’s certainly merit in shifting your social network over to something like Micro.blog, in the near term at least. As Enslen explains –

As the name Micro.blog implies the primary thing you can do on it is write short form posts like Twitter and Facebook.  But you can also post long form posts just like you would on a conventional blog, just keep typing and when you hit 280 characters in a post a Title Field appears and you are long form posting – effortlessly.  There is no friction or barriers between you and just writing.

Posting is easy, like posting on Twitter and the blog just auto-generates itself.  You can post, “I like pizza.”  You can post a picture of your cat plus a poem about your cat. You can post a 600 word essay about the Chicago Cubs. Whatever you want, however short or long you want. It’s one of the features I like the most.  Posting photos is very easy on MB.  There are quite a few dedicated photoblogs there.

And you can move.  If you decide to move you can export all your posts and import them on a different blogging platform.  This is exactly why MB strongly encourages you to use your own domain it makes moving easier.

Brad Enslen

There are two challenges, as I see it at the moment:

  1. If your social graph/network isn’t using Micro.blog, it’s value for you may be pretty limited (or you can create a new network!); and
  2. I worry that shifting over to another, single service is repeating the same mistake we all made focusing our social streams into a small number of social networks that we don’t control. Micro.blog is certainly more open than Twitter or Facebook, and you don’t even need to host your blog there to participate, so it’s better in that respect.

I’ve been using Micro.blog as a pseudo-Twitter for a little while now. My blog posts publish there automatically, and I’ve discovered some fascinating people there along the way.

The syndication aspect is why I think there’s definitely something to adopting Micro.blog as a social network, even if it’s more of a stepping stone to something else. I’d love that “something else” to be a distributed social fabric that’s informed by posts on our personal sites/blogs.

I don’t think we’re quite there yet (wherever there is?), but I’m hopeful that we can move beyond a site as a static site or as a chunky blog, to a point where a site/blog can be a source of articles, and also simpler shares like status updates, Instagram-like photos, and so on.

Micro.blog is the closest to that, that I’ve seen. Here’s Manton Reece’s overview of Micro.blog. I think it offers a pretty good perspective on what this distributed social experience could look like:

I’m not really interested in moving my site away from WordPress, and that’s not because I work at Automattic. Overall, I enjoy using WordPress, and I think it’s one of the best options out there for publishing just about everything from a personal blog, to more complex publications.

Hopefully WordPress will evolve, and incorporate technologies that feed this loose vision of a federated social Web based on personal sites that talk to each other seamlessly. In the meantime, there’s a growing collection of plugins that add these pieces along the way (such as the wonderful IndieWeb plugins).

So, perhaps Micro.blog is a good candidate for an alternative to Facebook, and Twitter*. It’s certainly a couple steps in the right direction, while we figure out what a post-Facebook/post-Twitter social Web looks like.

*well, certainly Twitter given that Micro.blog doesn’t support privacy options you may want to use in a Facebook alternative, and assuming that the people you want to follow are on Twitter too …

“I will keep blogging … for as long as I love and enjoy it”

I’m watching Georgie Luhur Cooke’s talk at DDD Sydney titled “Your blog ≠ everyone else’s blog“, and this quote stood out for me:

I will keep blogging not for as long as someone reads it, but for as long as I love and enjoy it

Georgie Luhur Cooke in “My Blogging Values

I really like the idea of having a set of blogging values. It reminds of the emphasis on authenticity that was central to blogging in the early years, in particular.

If you’re interested in watching Georgie’s talk, here it is (the sound volume is a bit low):

Why we should return to personal websites (Reason 1220)

I enjoyed “We Should Replace Facebook With Personal Websites“. It speaks to what I’m partially aiming for with this blog.

My original sin wasn’t making a Facebook account, it was abandoning my own website that I controlled (the original site was hosted on Tripod, but if I had to do it all over again, I’d pay for web hosting.) All these years later, maybe it’s time to update Jason’s Site.

Jason Koebler

Too many people were in too much of a rush to abandon their personal sites in favour of Twitter, Facebook, and/or something else.

The social Web could have been so much more diverse, and open if we hadn’t.

Twitter threads make no sense to me

Twitter threads make no sense to me. I also find then to be pretty frustrating.

I’ve read some really interesting, and engaging Twitter threads (you probably have too). Every time I read one, I ask myself two questions:

  • Why is this person going out of their way to share this story/their thoughts on a format that breaks the flow with every tweet?
  • Why doesn’t this person value their ideas/content/thoughts enough to give them/it a dedicated home on the Web that others can return to?

Sure, Twitter is great for firing off missives on the go. It’s both a real benefit, and the reason why Twitter’s becoming the seedy part of the Web.

It’s also a space that you don’t control, don’t own, and have no guarantee will still respect you in the morning. Taking the time to formulate your thoughts, and share them one tweet at a time, over multiple tweets, reflects a degree of dedication, and a determination to share them with the world.

Why, then, would you do the digital equivalent of carving your thoughts into beach sand, only to see it washed out when the tide comes in?

There are so many opportunities to share your ideas in a more resilient format, such as a blog, or even a collection of static HTML pages on a server somewhere. You can even tweet the link, if you want to get it out to your Twitter followers.

The cost of setting up, and maintaining a blog, are almost negligible. Do that instead. Your future readers will thank you.

Oh, and on a related note …

I occasionally come across tweets that attach images of typed documents. Please don’t do that. See above.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by drmakete lab

Watch this if you’re still on the fence about the new WordPress Editor (aka Gutenberg)

If you’re still unsure about the new WordPress Editor (aka Gutenberg), it’s worth watching Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word keynote at the recent WordCamp US 2018 event in Nashville.

You can find links to parts of the talk, along with slides, and commentary in Matt’s post, here:

I’ve been using the new Editor almost exclusively lately, not because I work for Automattic, but because it’s actually a pretty enjoyable way to write posts.

I still prefer to write longer posts in my text editor, and then add the posts into the editor afterwards (I’ve always been a little twitchy about my only version of long posts being in an online editor, just in case something goes pear shaped and I lose it all).

The new Editor isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good! It does work a little differently in some respects, but that isn’t a bad thing (necessarily). Also, it’s improving (I can add galleries that work the way they’re supposed to! Yay!) all the time.

Feedback that inspires me to be a better blogger

Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

I enjoy blogging because I enjoy sharing things that interest me. My blog has a pretty modest following, and I like receiving feedback on posts that resonate with readers.

This evening, I opened Twitter for some reason, and noticed this wonderful tweet from Jamie Rubin, a writer, blogger, and stimulus for my Field Notes obsession:

What makes Jamie’s feedback so much more meaningful is that I’ve followed his blog for a little while now, and I have great respect for his writing just based on his blog. Feedback like this inspires me to be a better blogger, so I can do justice to such kind words.

Jamie’s latest blog post, “Inside My Notebooks“, will give you a terrific sense of what he writes about (if you haven’t read it posts already):

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Adam Jang

MarsEdit + WordPress 5.0

MarsEdit is my favourite blog editor for my laptop. I use it daily, mostly for work-related posts that I publish. It makes it so much easier for me to publish to a variety of blogs (we have a lot of internal blogs at Automattic).

The new WordPress Editor has changed how we write blog posts and pages in the WordPress dashboard. I’ve been using the new editor more and more, lately, and I like it a lot for the most part.

At the same time, I don’t see myself giving up MarsEdit anytime soon. It’s a terrific app that I haven’t appreciated nearly enough.

In the short term I am not planning to add much in the way of block-specific functionality to MarsEdit. As I mentioned above, I think that blocks are going to appeal more to web authors who are managing full-fledged sites, and less to bloggers who appreciate the streamlined workflow that MarsEdit emphasizes.

Daniel Jalkut

I don’t see any reason why MarsEdit fans should stop using MarsEdit with WordPress 5.0 out. For one thing, you don’t have to switch to the new block editor. You can install the Classic Editor plugin, and keep blogging the way you’ve been doing it till now.

The new WordPress Editor is great, but it hasn’t reach feature parity with its predecessor in some respects. One area that stands out for me is galleries. It doesn’t seem possible to create galleries that open into slideshows like the current version of the feature in the Classic Editor.

I just published a draft post using MarsEdit, and I noticed that WordPress will add the post as a Classic editor block (at least on WordPress 4.9.8 – my host hasn’t released the 5.0 update yet).

Given the changes to the editor, and how central this has become to the WordPress experience with WordPress 5.0, it can be worrying if your workflow is dependent on an editor that you’re much more familiar with, and comfortable using. I’ve been hesitant to use the new editor, too.

If MarsEdit is central to your blogging workflow, keep doing what you’re doing. I see the new WordPress Editor as adding another option, not precluding you from doing what you’ve been doing till now.

Daniel Jalkut wrote a post about MarsEdit and WordPress 5.0. It’s worth reading.