Categories
Blogs and blogging

Advice for my early blogger self – be consistent, and be persistent

If I could go back to early 2004, and give myself advice as I started exploring this “blog” thing, I’d probably recommend the following:

  • Write good quality posts over meaningless clickbait more often than not;
  • Be consistent, and be persistent – it takes a lot of work to build an audience, but it’s worth it;
  • Embrace social media … as a distribution channel. It won’t replace a blog as a serious publishing tool (just wait 14 years, you’ll see);
  • Register a great domain early, and stick with it (names are good).

As much as I enjoy what I do, I love blogging. I look at blogs like kottke.org, and I find myself wishing I’d put more effort into my early blogging initiatives back in the early years.

Sure, it still takes a lot of work to succeed, especially back then when it wasn’t that obvious how to make money from these weblogs. At the same time, what an interesting way to make a living if you do.

Featured image by Geraldine Lewa, courtesy of Unsplash

Categories
Blogs and blogging Mindsets

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

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.

Categories
Blogs and blogging People

“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):

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web Writing

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
Categories
Blogs and blogging Creative expression Publishing

My blog is 14 years old, today, and it’s a big day for blogging

Today is a Big DayTM For Blogging, but probably only for me. Today is this blog’s 14th birthday! On 6 December 2004, I wrote my first post on this WordPress blog:

Where this chapter all began …

It was originally at a different domain, and has evolved over the last 14 years. I probably have a fair share of somewhat trashy posts, especially from my blog’s earlier years, and I’ve suffered some losses along the way due to rushed or poorly managed migrations from one server to another.

Still, after 14 years, I’m still blogging, albeit it somewhat erratically. Here’s the current state of my blog:

This year has been an interesting one for me when it comes to blogging. My day job as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic is focused on helping our customers build, maintain, and grow their WordPress.com sites. I deal with issues ranging from domain configurations, to custom CSS to tweak theme designs, to a little HTML to help structure page content better, to more involved WooCommerce store configurations, and a lot of troubleshooting in between.

Despite spending all that time focused on our customer’s sites, I’ve only published 148 blog posts of my own in 2018 (including this one). I seem to have surges of activity when I’m not working, or when I have something short to share using the WordPress.com Android app.

Regardless of how much I’ve shared this year, I’m really glad that I have this place of my own on the Web, wherever it may be from time to time. I strongly believe in the importance of having your own space on the Web that you own, and control (as much as you can when it comes to other people’s servers).

This is my home on the Web, weird content choices and all. Thank you for being part of it.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Events and Life Travel and places

Tweeting to preserve history

I suppose Twitter still has its good use cases. Tweeting to preserve history isn’t one of them. I came across this fascinating Twitter thread by Marina Amaral about the Sami people, who’ve been living in what’s now Finland for thousands of years:

The thread runs for several tweets, and it includes wonderful resources such as maps, old photos, and more recent photos that illustrate how these people have adapted to a modern world.

As much as I enjoyed reading Marina’s wonderful overview of these people’s history, I couldn’t help but wonder why she chose to tweet this, instead of blogging it? She has a remarkable blog that covers a range of historical events, and themes.

When it comes to digital preservation of these sorts of cultural and historical legacies, surely publishing it to a blog would be a far better medium?

Photo credit: D Sami Reindeer 12 by Michiel van Nimwegen, licensed CC BY NC ND 2.0

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web

Blogging is the antidote to social media woes

I like this approach, it’s what I’ve been doing for a little while now:

If you are frustrated with the state of social networks, I recommend blogging more. I love seeing new blogs and photo blogs just as we’re having a serious debate in the mainstream about social networks. The way out isn’t easy, but there’s a clear path waiting for us to take it.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Mindsets Social Web

Should Tumblr be the next Twitter? I hope not.

I can’t help but think that Jeremy Gordon’s call for people to return to Tumblr after abandoning Twitter misses the point a bit.

But on Tumblr, people could go on for at long as they needed to, a valuable tool for posters who could actually justify it. (And I use the past tense here in the context of my own experience; if you’re still doing this, bless you and yours.) Posts could be as short as necessary, but you could also find a historical deep dive, an interesting think piece (and not the kind derisively referred to as “takes”), a photo essay, or simply just a nice blog about someone’s life. The whole impetus behind following people on social media is, “Hey, I like this person’s brain, and am open to spending more time with it.” Tumblrs delivered the full, unrestrained range of someone’s head — funny, serious, and everything else.

Sure, Tumblr is an appealing platform, with a lot of good things to say about it. At the same time, one of the arguments for moving off the likes of Twitter and Facebook, and returning to personal sites is to regain control over your space on the Web.

Tumblr is another centralised, social space that’s vulnerable to the same threats that face its larger competitors.

People seem to be fixated on constraints, whether they are Twitter’s character count, or Tumblr’s engagement models.

Just create a blog of your own, on your preferred platform. I’m a WordPress user (since 2004), and you can choose another if you don’t like WordPress for some reason.

Whatever you choose, make it your space, at your domain, and keep it yours. If you only want to type short missives, great. If you prefer long, photo essays, that’s awesome too.

If you’re going to leave Twitter/Facebook because of the issues you see there, why replicate those conditions in another, similar service?

As Chris Aldrich put it, “support the web we’d like to have instead of the web we’re given”.