Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017
Newsvine has closed. Mike reflects on what he built, with a particular eye to the current online news situation.
When we look at how the average person’s news and media diet has changed over the last decade or so, we can trace it directly back to the way these and other modern organizations have begun feeding us our news. Up until 10 or 15 years ago, we essentially drank a protein shake full of news. A good amount of fruits and vegetables, some grains, some dairy, some tofu, and then a little bit of sugar, all blended together. Maybe it wasn’t the tastiest thing in the world but it kept us healthy and reasonably informed. Then, with cable news we created a fruit-only shake for half the population and a vegetable-only shake for the other half. Then with internet news, we deconstructed the shake entirely and let you pick your ingredients, often to your own detriment. And finally, with peer-reinforced, social news networks, we’ve given you the illusion of a balanced diet, but it’s often packed with sugar, carcinogens, and other harmful substances without you ever knowing. And it all tastes great!
There’s also this interesting litmus test for budding entrepreneurs:
We didn’t know for sure if it was going to work, but the day we decided we’d be happy to have tried it even if it failed was the day we ended up quitting our jobs (incidentally, if you are thinking about leaving your job for a new risky thing, this is the acid test I recommend).
Monday, July 17th, 2017
Saturday, May 6th, 2017
This really resonates with me. Tim Bray duly notes that people are writing on Medium, and being shunted towards native apps, and that content is getting centralised at Facebook and other hubs, and then he declares:
But I don’t care.
Anyhow, I’m not going away.
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
Writing on the web
Here’s a crazy idea: threaded tweets, but logged together, on a single webpage. A ‘weblog’, if you will.— Paul Lloyd (@paulrobertlloyd) March 21, 2017
Some people have been putting Paul’s crazy idea into practice.
- Mike revived his site a while back and he’s been posting gold dust ever since. I enjoy his no-holds-barred perspective on his time in San Francisco.
- Garrett’s writing goes all the way back to 2005. The cumulative result is two fascinating interweaving narratives—one about his health, another about his business.
- Charlotte has been documenting her move from Brighton to Sydney. Much as I love her articles about front-end development, I’m liking the slice-of-life updates on life down under even more.
- Amber has a great way with words. As well as regularly writing on her blog, she’s two-thirds of the way through writing 100 words every day for 100 days.
- Ethan has been writing about responsive design—of course—but it’s his more personal posts that make me really grateful for his site.
- Jeffrey and Eric never stopped writing on their own sites. Sure, there’s good stuff on their about web design and development, but it’s the writing about their non-web lives that’s so powerful.
There are more people I could mention …but, to be honest, not that many more. Seems like most people are happy to only publish on Ev’s blog or not at all.
I know not everybody wants to write on the web, and that’s fine. But it makes me sad when people choose not to publish their thoughts because they think no-one will be interested, or that it’s all been said before. I understand where those worries come from, but I believe—no, I know—that they are unfounded.
It’s a world wide web out there. There’s plenty of room for everyone. And I, for one, love reading the words of others.
Sunday, November 16th, 2014
There’s nothing quite so tedious as blogging about blogging, but I came across a few heart-warming thoughts recently that it would be remiss of me to let go unremarked, so please indulge me for a moment as I wallow in some meta-blogging.
Marco Arment talks about the trend that many others have noticed, of personal publishing dying out in favour of tweeting:
Too much of my writing in the last few years has gone exclusively into Twitter. I need to find a better balance.
As he rightly points out:
Twitter is a complementary medium to blogging, but it’s not a replacement.
Twitter and Waxy Links cannibalized all the smaller posts, and as my reach grew, I started reserving blogging for more “serious” stuff — mostly longer-form research and investigative writing.
Well, fuck that.
Someone made an analogy that describes social networks very well. Facebook is your neighborhood, Twitter is your local bar, and your blog is your home. (I guess Instagram is the cafe? “Look what I’m eating!”)
This made me realized I’m neglecting my home. My posts and photos are spread out on different networks and there is no centralized hub.
That reminds me of what Frank said about his site:
In light of the noisy, fragmented internet, I want a unified place for myself—the internet version of a quiet, cluttered cottage in the country.
- If it’s a paragraph, it’s a post.
- Negotiate a comfort zone.
- Traffic is irrelevant.
- Simplify, simplify.
- Ask for trusted collaborator feedback.
- Have fun.
Monday, September 29th, 2014
I’d go along with pretty much everything Anil says here. Wise words from someone who’s been writing on their own website for fifteen years (congratulations!).
Link to everything you create elsewhere on the web. And if possible, save a copy of it on your own blog. Things disappear so quickly, and even important work can slip your mind months or years later when you want to recall it. If it’s in one, definitive place, you’ll be glad for it.
Sunday, July 27th, 2014
An alternative history from a parallel timeline.
He started coding his own just weeks after Tim Berners-Lee, a tunnel engineer helping to build the STERN protein collider, discovered ancient scrolls buried in the Swiss soil that revealed the secrets of HTML.
Saturday, December 28th, 2013
Sometime in the past few years, the blog died. In 2014, people will finally notice.
But the second part of the article’s title is as important as the first:
Over the past 16 years, the blog format has evolved, had social grafted onto it, and mutated into Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest and those new species have now taken over.
The advantages to using Facebook should be brought out onto the web. There should be no real disadvantage to using one platform or another. In fact, there should be an advantage to using your own platform rather than those of a startup that could go out of business at any moment.
That’s a common thread in amongst a number of the responses: the specific medium of the blog may certainly be waning, but the idea of independent publishing still burns brightly. Ben Werdmuller sums that feeling up, saying the blog might be dying, but the web’s about to fight back:
If you buy the idea that articles aren’t dying - and anecdotally, I know I read as much as I ever did online - then a blog is simply the delivery mechanism. It’s fine for that to die. Even welcome. In some ways, that death is due to the ease of use of the newer, siloed sites, and makes the way for new, different kinds of content consumption; innovation in delivery.
In any case, let’s not ‘blog’, let’s just write—on our own personal place on the Web.
Me, I regret the day I started calling what I do here “blogging.”
I know how he feels. I still call what I write here my “journal” rather than my “blog”. Call it what you like, publishing on your own website can be a very powerful move, now more than ever:
Blogging may have been a fad, a semi-comic emblem of a time, like CB Radio and disco dancing, but independent writing and publishing is not. Sharing ideas and passions on the only free medium the world has known is not a fad or joke.
One of the most overused buzzwords of today’s startup scene is the word “disruption”. Young tech upstarts like to proclaim how they’re going to “disrupt” some incumbent industry of the old world and sweep it away in a bright new networked way. But on today’s web of monolithic roach-motel silos like Facebook and Twitter, I can’t imagine a more disruptive act than choosing to publish on your own website.
It’s not a new idea. Far from it. Jeffrey launched a project called Independent’s Day in 2001:
No one is in control of this space. No one can tell you how to design it, how much to design it, when to “dial it down.” No one will hold your hand and structure it for you. No one will create the content for you.
Those words are twelve years old, but they sound pretty damn disruptive to me today.
I’m returning to a personal site, which flips everything on its head. Rather than teasing things apart into silos, I can fuse together different kinds of content.
So, I’m doubling down on my personal site in 2014.
He is not alone. Many of us are feeling an increasing unease, even disgust, with the sanitised, shrink-wrapped, handholding platforms that make it oh-so-easy to get your thoughts out there …on their terms …for their profit.
Of course independent publishing won’t be easy. Facebook, Pinterest, Medium, Twitter, and Tumblr are all quicker, easier, more seductive. But I take great inspiration from the work being done at Indie Web Camp. Little, simple formats and protocols—like webmentions—can have a powerful effect in aggregate. Small pieces, loosely joined.
Mind you, it’s worth remembering that not everybody wants to be independent. Tyler Fisher wrote about this on Medium—“because it is easier and hopefully more people will see it”— in a piece called I’m 22 years old and what is this. :
Fighting to get the open web back sounds great. But I don’t know what that means.
If we don’t care about how the web works, how can we understand why it is important to own our data? Why would we try if what we can do now is so easy?
Therein lies the rub. Publishing on your own website is still just too damn geeky. The siren-call of the silos is backed up with genuinely powerful, easy to use, well-designed tools. I don’t know if independent publishing can ever compete with that.
In all likelihood, the independent web will never be able to match the power and reach of the silos. But that won’t stop me (and others) from owning our own words. If nothing else, we can at least demonstrate that the independent path is an option—even if that option requires more effort.
Like Tyler Fisher, Josh Miller describes his experience with a web of silos—the only web he has ever known:
Some folks are adamant that you should own your own words when you publish online. For example, to explain why he doesn’t use services like Quora, Branch, and Google-Plus, Dave Winer says: “I’m not going to put my writing in spaces that I have no control over. I’m tired of playing the hamster.”
As someone who went through puberty with social media, it is hard to relate to this sentiment. I have only ever “leased,” from the likes of LiveJournal (middle school), Myspace (middle school), Facebook (high school), and Twitter (college).
For me, publishing on a platform I have some ownership and control over is a matter of future-proofing my work. If I’m going to spend time making something I really care about on the web—even if it’s a tweet, brevity doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful—I don’t want to do it somewhere that will make it inaccessible after a certain amount of time, or somewhere that might go away, get acquired, or change unrecognizably.
This! This is why owning your own words matters.
I have a horrible feeling that many of the people publishing with the easy-to-use tools of today’s social networks don’t realise how fragile their repository is, not least because everyone keeps repeating the lie that “the internet never forgets.”
We were told — warned, even — that what we put on the internet would be forever; that we should think very carefully about what we commit to the digital page. And a lot of us did. We put thought into it, we put heart into, we wrote our truths. We let our real lives bleed onto the page, onto the internet, onto the blog. We were told, “Once you put this here, it will remain forever.” And we acted accordingly.
Sadly, when you uncover the deceit of that lie, it is usually through bitter experience:
Occasionally I become consumed by the idea that I can somehow find — somehow restore — all the droppings I’ve left on the internet over the last two decades. I want back the IMed conversations that caused tears to roll from my eyes, I want back the alt girl e-zines I subscribed to, wrote poetry for. I fill out AOL’s Reset Password form and send new passwords to email addresses I don’t own anymore; I use the Way Back Machine to search for the diary I kept in 1999. I am hunting for tracks of my former self so I can take a glimpse or kill it or I don’t know what. The end result is always the same, of course; these things are gone, they have been wiped away, they do not exist.
I’m going to continue to publish here on my own website, journal, blog, or whatever you want to call it. It’s still possible that I might lose everything but I’d rather take the responsibility for that, rather than placing my trust in
”the cloud” . I’m owning my own words.
The problem is …I publish more than words. I publish pictures too, even the occasional video. I have the originals on my hard drive, but I’m very, very uncomfortable with the online home for my photos being in the hands of Yahoo, the same company that felt no compunction about destroying the cultural wealth of GeoCities.
Flickr has been a magnificent shining example of the web done right, but it is in an inevitable downward spiral. There are some good people still left there, but they are in the minority and I fear that they cannot fight off the douchtastic consultants of growth-hacking that have been called in to save the patient by killing it.
I’ve noticed that I’m taking fewer and fewer photos these days. I think that subconsciously, I’ve started the feel that publishing my photos to a third-party site—even one as historically excellent as Flickr—is a fragile, hollow experience.
In 2014, I hope to figure out a straightforward way to publish my own photos to my own website …while still allowing third-party sites to have a copy. It won’t be easy—binary formats are trickier to work with than text—but I want that feeling of independence.
I hope that you too will be publishing on your own website in 2014.
Saturday, March 30th, 2013
Not tumbling, but spiralling
Tumblr is traditionally the home of fun and frivolous blogs: Moustair, Kim Jong-Ill Looking At Things, Missed High Fives, Selleck Waterfall Sandwich, and the weird but wonderful Consume Consume (warning: you may lose an entire day in there).
But there are also some more thoughtful collections on Tumblr:
- Abondonedography documents the strangely hypnotic lure of abandoned man-made structures, as does Abandoned Playgrounds.
- Adiphany shows some of the cleverer pieces from the world of advertising.
- Histories Past is a collection of fascinating historical photographs.
- Found is also a collection of photographs, all of them from the archives of National Geographic, many of them hitherto-unpublished.
It’s going to be real shame when Tumblr shuts down and deletes all that content.
Of course that will never happen. Just like that never would’ve happened to Posterous or Pownce or Vox or GeoCities — publishing platforms where millions of people published a panoply of posts from the frivolous to the sublime, all of them now destroyed, their URLs purged from the web.
That reminds me: there’s one other Tumblr-hosted blog I came across recently: Our Incredible Journey documents those vile and disgusting announcements that start-ups make when they get acquired by a larger company, right before they flush their user’s content (and trust) down the toilet.
Oh, and I’ve got a Tumblr blog too. I just use it for silly pictures, YouTube videos, and quotes. I don’t want it to hurt too much when it gets destroyed.
Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
I heartily concur with Chris’s sentiment:
I wish everyone in the world would blog.
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
Your own words
There has been a minor outbreak of handwringing and soul-searching amongst bloggers recently. Jon Udell asked Where have all the bloggers gone? Tim Bray responded with his own thoughts on the Blogodammerung. Paul Ford rallied with some straight-up old-fashioned blogging about the rotary dial.
For quite a while now, people have been pointing the finger at Twitter and Facebook, lamenting that these short-form services are time-sucking all their writing energy. There’s probably some truth to that but as harbingers of blogging doom go, they’re pretty weak. Some of us manage to both blog and tweet (I know, right‽).
If your craving to write is satiated by a service that limits you to 140 characters, then maybe blogging was never the right medium for you in the first place. Although, that said, most of the early blogs (or link-logs) tended to have short, snappy updates.
But there’s a more fundamental difference between posting to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Google+, and posting to your own blog. Unless you’re using a hosted service, your blog belongs to you. I’m not talking about ownership in the sense of copyright—I’m sure all those other services have T and Cs that make sure you retain to the rights to what you write. I’m talking about owning the URLs.
You are pouring your words into increasingly closed and often walled gardens. You are giving control - and sometimes ownership - of your content to social media companies that will SURELY fail.
He’s absolutely right. Over a long enough time period, all third-party services will let you down. There was a time when Friendster was too big to fail. There was a time when it wasn’t possible to imagine a web without Geocities. I’ve been burned by Pownce. Magnolia.
When Delicious was going to be “sunsetted” by Yahoo, a lot of people moved to Pinboard, a service that distinguishes itself by having the shocking business model of actually charging for use. That’s good, and it certainly increases its longevity, but it’s still somebody else’s domain. I decided to move my bookmarks over to my own site.
Now that there is much discontent around Twitter’s ongoing metamorphosis into yet another ad-driven media company, people are moving to App.net, a platform that you pay for and whose Alpha service looks a lot like Twitter without the bad parts. But it’s. Still. Somebody. Else’s. Domain.
I suspect that some of the recent blog-handwringing and blog-soul-searching was prompted by the launch of Medium, an intriguing service that seems to be making lack of ownership into a feature rather than a bug. Instead of your words being defined by you, the author, they are subsumed into the collective and defined by their subject matter instead.
Let me enter the URL of something I write in my own space, and have it appear here as a first class citizen. Indistinguishable to readers from something written here.
I’m a card-carrying Pembertonian. I have no problem with other services syndicating my words but I want to host the canonical copy. That’s what I’m doing with my journal. That’s I’m doing with my links. I’m not doing it with my tweets (unlike Tantek). I’m not doing it with my photos.
That’s the one that worries me the most. I have over 14,000 pictures on Flickr (I keep offline backups, of course). I pay Flickr and that’s a good thing. But it’s still only a matter of time before Flickr goes the way of other Yahoo properties.
Last year I went to IndieWebCamp in Portland to brainstorm and hack with like-minded people who want to be homesteaders instead of sharecroppers. It was an excellent gathering. And now it’s going to happen again, but this time it’s happening in Brighton.
I’ll see you there.
Sunday, August 19th, 2012
Amen, Scott, A-MEN:
You are not blogging enough. You are pouring your words into increasingly closed and often walled gardens. You are giving control - and sometimes ownership - of your content to social media companies that will SURELY fail.
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
The medium is the short message
I awoke on my final morning in Florida to find that Jeffrey had written some kind words about a post of mine on responsive design. He also tweeted the link which prompted many questions and comments on Twitter.
I didn’t respond to them.
I have written about responsive web design here in my journal and I’m sure I will have much, much more to say on the matter. But this kind of subject—the sort that requires nuanced, thoughtful discussion—is completely unsuited to Twitter. If anything, Twitter’s tendency (or “twendency”, if you will …’sokay—I just punched myself in the face for that) is to reduce more complex discussion down into simplified soundbites and Boolean values.
Personally, I still get the most value from Twitter when I treat it as a sort of micro-journal, much as I did when I first started using it four and a half years ago. I like Twitter, but it is definitely not the best platform for every kind of online discourse.
This has prompted a call-to-arms from Chris Shiflett:
Most conversation has moved from blogs to Twitter, and although Twitter is more active than blogs ever were, there are fewer quality conversations and debates taking place as a result of this transition. I’m hoping you’ll join me in a blog revival.
It might just be the call to arms that shifts our priorities slightly, focusing just a little more on the longer, more considered pieces; posts that are more rewarding to write, hopefully more rewarding to read, and conceivably more likely to be curated.
This isn’t a backlash against Twitter, however. There’s room for both — for quick headline thoughts and for more reasoned posts. I think it would be a shame to have only the former and none of the latter. As such, I’ve been making a bit more of an effort to dust off my own blog and to post some of the things I would normally just tweet.
The real banquets are blog posts, though. I’ve learnt more from them in the last ten years than I ever will from 140 characters. That’s why blogs are something to be treasured. Blogs and RSS may be dead according to some, but I like that I disagree.
I’m very happy to see my friends and peers make a concerted effort to return to long(er) form writing.
Some of us never stopped.
If you’d like to debate and discuss responsive web design or anything else, I encourage you to take the time to write a blog post. It doesn’t have to be very long, but it’ll probably require more than 140 characters.
Thursday, January 6th, 2011
PPK has switched off comments for much the same reason that I hardly ever have comments on adactio.com: our sites are places for us to broadcast rather than have a conversation.
Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
An excellent little service: give it your Last.fm username and it finds music blogs you’ll probably like. I’ve found a treasure trove of Huffduffer sources through this.
Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
You’ve either poured weeks, months or even years of your life into bringing a product or a service into the world, or you haven’t.
He finishes with:
And the next time someone produces an antenna with a weak spot, or a sticky accelerator, you’re more likely to feel their pain, listen to their words and trust their actions than the braying media who have never shipped anything in their lives.
I’d suggest the opposite is in fact the case: the trouble is that media ships constantly, and therefore becomes inured to the difficulties and delicacies of launching a product of any size or scale.
It’s an excellent point, which Tom readily concedes.
People often think that editors are there to read things and tell people “no.” Saying “no” is a tiny part of the job. Editors are first and foremost there to ship the product without getting sued. They order the raw materials—words, sounds, images—mill them to approved tolerances, and ship.
It’s a rather spiffing conversation and it’s fascinating to see the ideas get bounced around from blog to blog. Notice that none of those blogs allow comments. I’m pretty sure that if they did have comments, the resulting conversation wouldn’t have been nearly as good. As I’ve said before:
I don’t think we should be looking at comments to see conversations. It isn’t much of a conversation when the same person determines the subject matter of every dialogue. The best online conversations I’ve seen have been blog to blog: somebody posts something on their blog; somebody else feels compelled to respond on their own blog. The quality of such a response is nearly always better than a comment on the originating blog for the simple reason that people care more about what appears on their own site than on someone else’s.
But how can we keep track of the conversation? I hear you cry.
I don’t think there’s any one particular technological solution to that problem but the combination of RSS, Delicious, Twitter and other linking tools seem to be doing a pretty decent job. If you dig down deep enough, they’re all using the same fundamental technology: the
a element and the
It’s messy and it’s chaotic but it’s also elegant …because it works. Seeing these kinds of distributed conversations makes me very happy indeed that Tim Berners-Lee shipped his product.
Wednesday, June 16th, 2010
What he said. "The wonderful thing about the web is that anyone can contribute to it. If you have something to say, there are plenty of places to say it. But your right to post to someone else’s site rests with that someone else."
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
A self-documenting explanation of why John Gruber doesn't have comments on his site.
Friday, September 25th, 2009
I think that reports of the death of the blog have been greatly exaggerated but I agree with just about everything written here.