Been pondering on a longer post, but in the meantime, I wanted to welcome the Nielsen Haydens back to the blogging fold. Theirs was always a thriving community above and beyond being a blog, and I’m glad to see them back. (Also, as mentioned in their post, and again here, if you have experience migrating a complex blog from old Movable Type system to something more modern like WordPress, do please reach out to them – they’re good folks.)
Ben Werdmuller put together a nice site laying out current tools for blogging, and why you might want to start. If you wanted a good summary of the state of things and what to try, it’s a good site to check out!
Not much to add in, other than that I agree, it’s nice to do and it’d be swell to see more folks blogging again. Do you run a blog? Let me know, I’d love to add it to my rss feeds!
Fun little concept, the “now” page. From their about page:
Most websites have a link that says “about”. It goes to a page that tells you something about the background of this person or business. For short, people just call it an “about page”.
Most websites have a link that says “contact”. It goes to a page that tells you how to contact this person or business. For short, people just call it a “contact page”.
So a website with a link that says “now” goes to a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. For short, we call it a “now page”.
Maybe I should put together one of those. And of course, the name reminds me of the classic “when will then be now” scene from Spaceballs:
I obviously agree, seeing as I’ve been blogging for ~20 years now. But it did get me thinking about what I’d like to see out of a modern blogging system. (More specifically, self-hosted blogging systems.) There’s nothing wrong with WordPress, per se, but just as a thought exercise, what would I want to do differently if I were going to write blogging software?
- Built in subscription reader. One of the things that systems like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook get “right” is that consuming and publishing happen in the same place. It’d be great to see an integrated RSS reader, with easy re-sharing functionality built in. Ideally, the RSS reader would be Open Reader compatible, so those who want their own RSS reader can integrate with it if desired.
- Customizable Editor(s). Make a nice rich text editor, sure, but also make it easy to swap out for markdown or other solutions, so users can choose what works for them.
- Strong Native APIs. That’s kinda broad, but I also mean it kind of broadly. WebSub, Webmentions, RSS, everything for both writing TO the blog and reading FROM it. This would allow for some interesting potential applications that could build from the blog backend, and leave room for custom frontends using any number of different frontend frameworks (React, Vue, and so on).
- Media is a First-Class Citizen. Photos and video should obviously be supported, and with a good organizational structure for files and attachments (I know they’ve put in a fair amount of work on it but I’m still pretty unhappy with how media is handled in WordPress). Further, support for multimedia embeds and unfurls from other services.
- Dead Simple POSSE. As a reminder, POSSE stands for Publish on Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. It’s the principle of posting everything you can on a site or service you control, and then letting integrations with other services share that content to other sites (such as automatically cross-posting images to your Instagram or announcing new articles on Twitter, et cetera). I realize this is somewhat limited by other services being willing to play ball (they want to capture your content, not share it, which is why you’ve seen many services get progressively more locked down).
It’s worth noting, a lot of these things you can already sorta do with WordPress. You don’t hear a lot about the WP API, but it does have one. Likewise, there are several alternative editors, including a “Classic” editor for those who don’t like the new Gutenberg editor, and ones that enable Markdown. It’s really about making it all feel built in, not tacked on, where the reading and writing flow feels natural.
What “killer feature” would you want to see that would help you start blogging?
In the vein of blogs seeing a revival, Paul Graham Raven over at Velcro City Tourist Board has a good post that’s worth a read about returning to blogging (I am hopeful that the revival proves true, but the rationale and reasons he calls out are valid regardless of whether he wanders off again):
Of course, that rolling discourse hasn’t vanished; it just migrated onto faster, more accessible and more populous platforms, and in doing so became far faster, far thinner, and far more clamorous. Sure, there’s still blogging going on, too, but it’s changed a lot, and in some places died back almost entirely: the Genre Fiction Blog Wars in which I was once a footsoldier appear to have gone full scorched-earth in the years since I went AWOL from the front lines, with many once-vital sites vanished, shuttered or abandoned; my RSS reader is full of URLs I still can’t quite bear to cull, in case they should suddenly start up again like a much-loved numbers station in the night. I’m looking for new sources more relevant to my current incarnation as an academic, but the process is slow, not least because the old tradition of cross-linking and inter-site commentary (and, yes, argument) has been replaced by something more decontextualised, more lone(ly)-voices-in-the-wilderness. I dunno, maybe it’s just me overinterpreting five years of change through a very personal lens, but it’s definitely not the same any more; you can make your own value-judgement on that qualitative shift.
I’ve felt it too — while I’ve certainly been noticing a return to the Isle of Blogging, the energy is different. Less optimistic, perhaps, but less drawn in by the desire for a crowd as well. We’re here because we want to be.
Continuing with the topic of the revival of blogging, emailed newsletters and small communities, Warren Ellis also recently commented:
I miss that long moment when the web seemed full of people doing the same thing, or thinking in public. It happens in the Republic Of Newsletters, now. But it was nice to have all those little radio stations broadcasting in the night.
And later stated:
I’ve seen the idea circulating for a while: come off the streams, own your own platform for your own voice and your own complete statements. It seems like a reactionary step, from some angles. But maybe that great river, The Conversation, was, like every river followed to its source, a dead end. The resurgence of the Republic Of Newsletters may be one aspect of a return to the ocean, dotted with little pirate radio stations broadcasting through the night again.
I like this metaphor (or combination of metaphors), and I agree. I’ve got a few newsletters I’m subscribed to at the moment, and I really appreciate them, particularly the ones that are a little more human, sharing a bit of the personal alongside whatever other interesting things they’re wanting to share. The same can be said for my favorite blogs, the ones I read without fail and never gloss over.
I encourage people to subscribe to my site via RSS, when mentioning I have a site on the Facebooks and Twitters and similar. This may seem a little archaic (that is so 2008), but honestly RSS is still one of my go-to solutions for finding worthwhile things to read, watch, or experience.
One of the big reasons you don’t really see RSS mentioned anymore (despite folks actually using it often, without realizing it… looking at you, podcasts) is because Google stupidly shut down Google Reader, which was the de facto standard for reading your feeds. That killed a lot of momentum for its use.
While RSS may be limping along, it’s not dead, and a lot of sites actually do have RSS feeds, still — they just aren’t as prominently noted or advertised or linked anywhere.
Of course, even if you do decide to use RSS, there’s still the hurdle of finding an RSS reader you actually like. A lot of folks go with a web-based option (ala Google Reader), so they can read on whatever device they happen to be on. There’s also some pretty nice apps for sale (for instance, NetNewsWire), if you’re so inclined, and a lot of RSS-adjacent apps (like several web browsers, and even Apple Mail) are available as well. Personally, I use Vienna RSS, which is an open source project made for macOS. I’ve tried a bunch of other apps and methods, and this is the one I keep coming back to (there was a gap where development wasn’t really happening much, so I looked around a fair bit, but regular updates are happening again). It’s fairly fast, robust, and seems to handle a ton of feeds well. If you’re looking for a reader, I’d say it’s worth a try.
I recently went through and cleaned up my RSS feeds, getting rid of dead feeds. I just want to say, to all those bloggers who have continued to post after the blogging fad wore off: I salute you, and I’m still reading.
- Blogger creates blog.
- A huge flurry of initial posts ensues. Blogger describes such mundane topics as taking his family to McDonaldâs.
- Blogger realizes that perhaps the rest of the world isnât so interested in his musings on McDonaldâs.
- Posting frequency drops off.
- A last post or two.
- Blog goes into hiatus.
- After some time away, blogger returns with a few posts.
Welcome back, Phil.