Archive — Blogging
An interview with Khoi Vinh on the benefits of blogging.
Blogging has always been pivotal to my career. When I was offered my first ‘proper’ job as a web editor at the University of St Andrews, I only really had my blog to speak for. Yet it was enough to get my name out there, and to enable me to develop web skills.
Since then, I’ve had less and less spare time. Now it’s a huge challenge to find the space for myself to blog.
I’d done well last year by publishing something every day. But recently I fell off the wagon. So this line from Khoi Vinh’s interview stood out to me:
I think you’ve just got to do it consistently, repeatedly, and you’ve got to be undeterred by the time it requires and the inconvenience in your life that it generates.
I’ll try to be more tolerant of that inconvenience. It will probably pay off in some way I can’t imagine just now, like it did 10 years ago.
Note — 2019-05-18
Blogs that don’t have RSS feeds: Why?!
Note — 2019-04-03
Update for email and WordPress.com subscribers
Last week I changed the address of my website to duncanstephen.net. It has taken a little longer for all my subscribers to migrate across — but you should be receiving my updates again now.
Here are the posts you missed:
- Duncan Stephen .net — where I explain why I changed website address.
- It just so happened that my passport needed to be renewed this month
- People won’t stop staring at their phones, so a Dutch town put traffic lights on the ground
- What does Charles Leclerc’s success tell us about Daniel Ricciardo?
Thanks for reading, and I hope you stick around!
A more complicated web — Christian Heilmann
A useful explanation as to why we can’t return to “a simpler web” that enabled anyone to easily become a publisher.
What we consider a way to express ourselves on the web – our personal web site – is a welcome opportunity for attackers… [I]t can be recruited as a part of a botnet or to store illegal and malicious content for re-distribution.
So, to me, there is no such thing as going back to the good old web where everything was simple. It never was. What we need now to match the siren call of closed garden publishers is making it easier to publish on the web. And to control your data and protect the one of your users. This isn’t a technical problem – it is one of user interfaces, services and tools that make the new complexity of the web manageable.
I’m not sure I fully agree with (or even understand) his proposed way forward. But it’s useful to think about how we can balance the desire to encourage self-publishing with fully robust, secure solutions. The game changed long ago.
Putting into economic terms the distinction between blogging and social media, and articulating what we have lost through the decline of blogging.
If you want attention for your blog you have to earn it through a combination of quality, in the sense that you’re producing something valuable for your readers, and trust, in the sense that you’ve produced enough good stuff over time to establish a good reputation with the fellow bloggers whose links will help grow your audience.
I first realised this about blogging when it became clear that comments sections on major websites were almost always cesspits. People in comments sections are generally attempting to freeride on the quality of the website they are posting on.
Bloggers, on the other hand, really need to be high-quality to get any sort of audience at all. That makes blogs generally good.
Social media is quite the opposite. To start getting traction on social media, the threshold is rather low. In fact, often, lower quality works better.
Link via Khürt Williams
Why makers write
This is a bit of a sales pitch, but it is a good piece on the importance of writing regularly.
Deep understanding is necessary for makers. Understanding develops the perspective and conviction needed for bringing products to market. This is why blog-first startups are viable. Writing forces a maker to deeply understand the value they intend to bring into the world.
After a decade (yes, a decade!) of BadgerGP.com we’re closing down after the 2018 season.
One of the first — and best — Formula 1 blogs is closing its doors.
In 2010, I was honoured to be asked if I would like to contribute an article to BadgerGP. The outcome was, The Vettel-Webber backlash: Are Red Bull losing their Fizz?
As noted by the F1 Broadcasting Blog on Twitter, it’s a shame to see another independent motorsport website close.
Thanks to Adam Le Feuvre, and everyone involved with F1 Badger and BadgerGP over the years.
Sara Soueidan on why you should just write, regardless of what the voice in your head may be telling you.
Start a blog and publish your writings there. Don’t think about whether or not people will like or read your articles — just give them a home and put them out there.
Most popular blogs I know started out as a series of articles that were written for the authors themselves, as a way to document their process and progress for their future selves to reference when they needed to.
Like Sara, I have found it difficult at times over the years to publish stuff to my blog, out of fear that it wouldn’t be good enough.
Over this past year I have committed to publishing something every day. It is not always high-quality. But doing so has been good for me, and has achieved most of what I had hoped for.
This is exactly why it’s worth investing the effort to own your content.
Medium owner/operator Ev Williams is Mark Zuckerberg. You remember when Facebook enticed publishers to pivot to video for Facebook and then killed news/opinion video on Facebook? Medium has pivoted something like five times, and each time it’s severely injured a whole tranche of publishers and writers who it invited in.
I really don’t understand why companies and professional media organisations are using Medium at all.
More frequent posting
More on the idea of writing more regularly.
In the Marshmallow Challenge there are two groups of individuals that tend to produce the best results. (Un)surprisingly, structural engineers do well (as you would hope!) but the other highest scoring groups are actually 2nd graders. Yeah, 2nd graders. Not project management teams, or programmers, or MBAs. The reason they were so good is because they didn’t bother wasting time deciding who was going to do what – they just started playing around and building, figuring out what did and didn’t work as they went along. These kids significantly outperformed most adults, other than those who had formal training on how to build things.
Good writing and analytics don’t mix
If you want to be a good writer then you can’t worry about the numbers. The stats, the dashboards, the faves, likes, hearts and yes, even the claps, they all lead to madness and, worst of all in my opinion, bad writing.
Recently I have been thinking a bit about what stats trackers I should be running on my blog, particularly in light of GDPR. I currently run three, and I wonder if I should cut this back.
Robin Rendle’s blog post has got me wondering further if it’s just a bad idea to worry about — or even be aware of — how many people are reading.
It’s always tempting to look at the stats. But I also know that the most-viewed posts are not the highest quality ones. So perhaps it’s better to focus on improving something other than the numbers.
See also: Escaping Twitter’s self-consciousness machine, on what happens when you remove all metrics from the Twitter interface.
An ode to writing with a human voice
More on the apparent decline of blogs from the Government Digital Service (GDS).
This article makes the excellent counterpoint to a recent GDS post apparently attempting to address the debate around the quality of their recent blogging efforts.
The measures of success cited include levels of ‘engagement’, aligning posts with campaigns, and instances of very senior officials publishing posts. This, to me, fundamentally misunderstands the value of blogging compared with more ‘formal’ communications. Aligning blogs more closely with PR activity doesn’t strengthen blogs— it nullifies their distinct value.
Of course, it is not just GDS who have suffered.
In the early days, blogging and social media was so vital precisely because it wasn’t traditional communications. When the communications people caught wind of the popularity of social media, they took control (which, for some reason, comms people are obsessed with). The comms crowd and the marketing mob turned social media into yet another stifled channel, designed to control the message, thereby destroying actual valuable communication.
Small b blogging
I love this idea of small b blogging — pursuing meaningful connections over mass pageviews. You might call it anti-clickbait.
Much of the content that is crammed down our throats through giant platforms like Facebook is designed to grab eyeballs, pageviews and clicks. This sort of content brings transient pleasure, but little real value.
This is similar to my reasons for starting blogging again. While I’m sure I won’t ever again get the same amount of pageviews I used to get in 2006–2007, there is something about regularly reaching a smaller number of people to share something worth writing home about.
It’s a virtuous cycle of making interesting connections while also being a way to clarify and strengthen my own ideas. I’m not reaching a big audience by any measure but the direct impact and benefit is material.
Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”.
Strategic thinking with blog posts and stickers
There has been a lot of chat recently about the apparent decline in quality of Government Digital Service (GDS) blogs. That debate isn’t explicitly mentioned here by former GDS employee Giles Turnbull. But perhaps this is the blogging equivalent of a subtweet (a subblog?).
The idea is basically this: you think out loud, on your blog, over a long period of time. At least months. Probably years. Each new post is about one thing, and tells a single story of its own, but also adds to the longer narrative. Each new post helps you tell that longer, deeper story, and becomes another linkable part of the timeline.
This also feeds into the wider commentary surrounding the apparent (or perhaps merely hoped-for) resurgence in blogging this year.
I certainly find this a useful contribution in explaining the value of blogging. It must not be run through the traditional communcations department wringer. The whole point of blogging is that is by real people (not comms people), talking about their real experiences and even their mistakes.
If you only talk blandly about your successes, you’re not really talking.
Reclaiming my blog as my thought space
Dries Buytaert on reclaiming his blog. It’s just the latest of many blog posts I have read recently from people keen to share more personal content on their own websites.
My blog is primarily read by technology professionals — from Drupal users and developers, to industry analysts and technology leaders — and in my mind, they do not read my blog to learn about a wider range of topics. I’m conflicted because I would like my l blog to reflect both my personal and professional interests.
This is a struggle I well recognise. When Twitter was born, those more personal snippets moved to social media. Bloggers felt the need to become more professional and write more polished, fully-fleshed articles.
But Twitter (and other social media services) no longer fill that gap the way they used to. The most viable answer is to go back to the good old days of more personal blogging.
A few notes on daily blogging
A striking article, partly because I find it slightly eerie that the author chose to start blogging daily on 1 October, the same day I started blogging again.
I haven’t quite managed to blog on a daily basis. Although I do publish something at least once a day, I tend to write multiple posts at a time and schedule them for future publication.
(As an example, I’m writing this on Wednesday 28 February, in the expectation that I will publish it on Tuesday 6 March.)
As a result, I’m not sure I have benefited yet from resuming my regular blogging. Perhaps I will endeavour to carve out some time each day to write something.
Last blog standing, “last guy dancing”: How Jason Kottke is thinking about kottke.org at 20
As some ponder the apparent resurgence in blogging, Jason Kottke looks back on the past 20 years as one of the few who never stopped blogging. But reading between the lines, it sounds like he wouldn’t bother starting up a blog today.
Web trend map 2018
iA reflects on the spirit of the web that has been lost.
There seems to be a weak undercurrent of old and young bloggers like us that feel sentimental or curious and want to bring back blogging. Blogging won’t save the world. But, hell, after two weeks now, we can confirm: it feels great to be back on the blogging line.
If you are one of those old or young bloggers, please join in. Drop Facebook, drop Twitter and drop Medium for original thought. Own your traffic.