Micro.blog open to allComments

Massive congratulations to Manton Reece as he has announced today that, to close out 2017, micro.blog is now open to the public:

”Micro.blog is now available to anyone. There’s a limit of 100 new sign-ups each day, so that we can better respond to feedback as the community grows.”

This year has been one of significant change for me, as I’ve said before, thanks in no small part to the influence of micro.blog and how it has made me think about how I should treat my own site.

So, what is micro.blog and why should you use it?

Rather than just another social network m.b is a network of “micro blogs” that lets you follow and reply to other people in a Twitter-like timeline but the posts don’t solely exist within that timeline, they live on the blogs and are brought in via RSS.

I personally tend to think of micro.blog as like an RSS reader with a social layer allowing you to comment on other people’s posts via the timeline. It’s very much a hybrid environment and what it does depends on how you use it.

In addition to having blogs hosted on the service itself you can hook it up to your own site - as I do with this WordPress blog. This lets you post either via your own site or the m.b apps or website and, if your blog supports IndieWeb Webmentions, receive any replies as native comments. In that regard, I use micro.blog as a comment system like Disqus.

It’s this distinction that justifies why I still engage in a quasi-social environment when I have sworn off of the likes of Twitter.

The benefit of using micro.blog is that you own your posts and can, should you want to, automatically cross-post them to Twitter or Facebook as the service supports this. The IndieWeb is not out to replace existing social avenues but to interact with them while allowing people to retain greater ownership and control.

If you have your own blog but don’t want a separate microblog you don’t need to do anything differently, just hook up your RSS feed and simply use it as an extra layer of engagement.

We put so much on social networks and the majority is quickly lost and forgotten - it’s such a waste of effort. I firmly believe that people should get back to writing for themselves in their own spaces and micro.blog is a great facilitator for this.

So, well done Manton and thanks for a great year!

Micro.blog open to all

Finding the reasonComments

Patrick Rhone linked to a piece by Sarah K Peck on "silence, stillness and community" and I was so taken with it that I started to digest more of her blog.

In her previous post she writes about finding "something that turned my mind upside down."

Through detailing what it was that moved her so she became the catalyst for my own "something."

Consider this:

"It’s a relationship with the work that allows for the mystery to stay in the process. For the tantalizing feeling of not knowing, for the delight in the exploration."

And I realised where I've been going wrong. It cemented something in my mind that I've been skirting around but not fully grasping.

Sarah quotes that when we force ourselves into a routine the "discipline itself, not the creative outflow, becomes the point."

Yes, we need discipline to achieve our goals but forcing it upon ourselves above all else can be detrimental; we can end up resenting it and our work suffers as a consequence.

When I remarked that posting every day wasn't for everyone I didn't go far enough but Sarah's words hammered the point home.

There has to be a reason for showing up beyond doing so just to keep a streak going.

We need the mystery.

We don't need to gamify our lives in order to feel a sense of accomplishment; we need to reconnect with that delight, with the thrill of exploration when charting an uncertain course.

We need to spark the fires of curiosity and adventure, even in the mundane or routine, because there is a purpose for doing it.

If the only reason we can find is "because it must be done" then maybe we are on the wrong path and can no longer hear our inner-self shouting and screaming about its passions.

We must reconnect with that voice as, only then, will we remember why we do any of this at all.

#bypen

Finding the reason

StatsComments

I have had the JetPack stats module enabled on the site since it was first introduced, not necessarily to monitor traffic coming to the blog but more to check on people leaving.

That may sound a bit weird or counterintuitive.

Part of the joy of blogging, at least for me, is in helping readers find things or people - that’s why it’s always good to link out. It’s also why I implemented the Directory and, more recently, added the blogroll.

While I’m no good at curating links and lists in a social context I love being able to act as a conduit through the blog, even if only a small one, so seeing the outgoing stats populated with clicks to other people is always good.

But the temptation is always there to look at the incoming, to fret and obsess over it, just as I try to tell myself that I don’t really care. I have deliberately removed myself from online environments that use metrics as a coercive force so it feels a bit hypocritical to still have them here.

Until now!

I know from recent months that visitors to the blog regularly use the directory and blogroll so I don’t really need to keep track of that any more - they work and that is enough for me.

So I have completely disabled the stats module to remove the temptation and the worry. Telling myself I don’t care is one thing, demonstrating it is something else entirely.

Stats

Passion and doubtComments

I listened to the first episode of the Broken Record podcast in which Malcolm Gladwell and Rick Rubin discuss "Walk on Water" - Eminem's new single.

It’s a great listen and wish it was longer but it got me thinking.

As hip hop evolved in the 90's from the old braggadocio old school through gangster rap and beyond I became disenchanted. As more time passed I used to say that, ironically, the only people producing "proper" hip hop were white.

The Beastie Boys and Eminem - that was pretty much it for me for a while. Maybe I just got stuck with a romantic vision of the past and didn't want to move on.

So, to hear the podcast episode based on the premise that Eminem might feel that what he knows as hip hop is being undermined and possibly moving on without him struck a chord.

Listening to such an artist wax lyrical (pardon the pun) about their field and the passion they have for it, as he does during interview segments in the episode, is always inspiring.

But, for all this passion and obvious success, Eminem always doubts himself or, at least, portrays that self doubt in his music.

And that, too, hits home.

I love to write, I love to post to the blog but frequently doubt myself, doubt what I'm doing or the approach I'm taking. I frequently doubt my ability to present my ideas and frame them correctly.

It happens in cycles; I'll get renewed focus and feel like I know the direction I should be heading but, over time, that focus can wane and the uncertainty creeps back in.

Part of me thinks that it's only blogging, it's primarily for myself, so what does it matter. But when the passion is there, that all consuming fire inside, and you know what you can be capable of everything else seems like a pale imitation.

While I have all but removed myself from social media (micro.blog apart although I don't see or use that as a true social network) there is still a performative element to it. I don’t know if anyone can really say otherwise when they write publicly on the web.

Perhaps this is why I’m now drawn to pen and paper.

Whether it's because I lament the lost skill and feel of handwriting, want to slow down and take time over what I write, or because I miss that personal touch I don't know.

I definitely suspect part of it is a desire to withdraw some of what I do from the public realm. While the passion drives me on I’m just not sure how deep I want to go.

Passion and doubt

A new blogrollComments

I have completed the first version of my blogroll plugin and you can view the results here. At present it includes ten people as I wanted to stay true to James Shelley’s notion about value.

Spoiler alert: he made the list.

As previously mentioned, the blogroll stores entries using a custom post type then displays them by way of a shortcode which can be placed on any page. Each time the shortcode is triggered the blogroll.opml file is recreated so it is always up to date.

I have updated the site footer to show links to both the directory and blogroll. The directory is still valuable for discovery purposes but nothing beats explicit recommendation.

The plugin is available on GitHub - usage and styling info is in the readme.

A new blogroll

200 daysComments

Today I’ve reached 200 consecutive days of posting.

Some days have seen a lot while others might have had something very brief but I’m not forcing myself to adhere to any rules.

I don't think I even achieved a streak like this during Write365 as I missed 5 days throughout the year due to illness.

I've certainly never gotten anywhere close on my own blog and probably not even when I was using Twitter quite a lot.

Mixing things up with both long and short form posts, likes and replies, makes it much easier to post on a regular basis - and, dare I say, more natural.

I'm free to write whatever I want without the restrictions of topic or format whether imposed by platform or self. That’s a radically different outlook to how the blog used to be.

I like it!

200 days

Getting personalComments

I sometimes forget what this is all about.

The site title and many posts would ostensibly indicate that this was a blog about social media. Indeed that’s exactly what it was for a number of years.

But times and sensibilities have changed, opinions evolved. I moved on.

Despite knowing this, and fully intending to return to proper old school blogging, I sometimes feel guilty for getting personal as the site was so focused for so long.

And I think that’s been holding both I and the blog back.

Getting personal

I’m not entirely sure why but I completely separated the newer blog content from the archive to even the search level.

If searching when on a newer page you only get results since the post-archive date. Search from within the archive, however, and you’ll get results from anywhere.

Creating the archive itself makes obvious sense but I’m not so sure about extending this separation to search. I think I’m going to remove that restriction.

Status

Blogging from the MacComments

My phone is really my PC - that’s Primary Computer - and, as I’ve written numerous times, that’s where I do just about everything including 99.9% of my blogging, image manipulations and even coding.

While I have an iPad I almost never use it; the phone is just far more convenient and easier to hold and use in so many more circumstances. People talk about a mobile mindset but, just because I use iOS on a phone it doesn’t automatically mean the same behaviour will occur when using an iPad.

Or a laptop for that matter.

I find that I use the MacBook far more than I ever did my Windows laptops but it still feels ridiculously underused. Perhaps that’s about to change.

I’m writing this in Ulysses, having subscribed to the app and pretty certain I’m going to stick with it, but Manton Reece has just launched a beta Mac client for micro.blog which may well encourage me to use the MacBook more than I ever have.

I was lucky enough to have an extra day to play with it before launch; I’d expressed an interest in testing and the fact that I’m using WordPress instead of a hosted blog was probably a good opportunity for early feedback.

Manton has repeatedly said that this is just a version 1.0 app but, I have to say, it’s been rock solid. Browsing, replying and posting to the blog have all been a breeze and I’ve not had a single issue or error.

It will be nice when some of the additional functionality from the iOS version gets included (such as automatically converting from status to standard post and prompting for a title when you go over 280 characters) but, other than, this is a fully usable and (so far) reliable app which is great to have sat open while doing other things.

Good job Manton. 👍

Blogging from the Mac

Required reading?Comments

Dave Winer posted:

"I wish blogs could have the concept of required reading for the people who read the site."

He uses it in the context of something external which he feels everyone should be aware of but, I feel, it could be anything.

I've used a similar concept for years to highlight "recommended" posts to those who probably haven't visited the current version of the blog. If you try to visit the old randomelements domain you will be redirected to the /welcome page.

With each iteration of the blog I have refreshed the Welcome page but then invariably forgotten about it, leaving it stale and no longer a true reflection of what I consider should be read.

Some posts remain evergreen but blogs are (or should be) constantly moving forward with ideas and opinions growing and morphing all the time.

I wish I did a better job of keeping it up to date - the same with the /now page - or what's the point in having it?

I think the problem is that I never see it and it's not obvious that it even exists. It's almost "set it and forget it" but that's completely the wrong approach.

There are times I wonder if more regular readers would like or benefit from such a page, properly curated, but the dilemma of how to bring it to people's attention then rears its ugly head.

The old "cookie and pop-up" method is obnoxious and more likely to make people click away but the quiet menu link is a bit anonymous.

Changing the context from recommended to required makes that even tougher. Required reading becomes an obligation, perhaps a bit heavy for a blog, but I can see where Dave is going with it.

Maybe a different approach is needed, one that isn't in your face but people know or expect to be there. The About page is a web wide convention, one is just expected to be there on a site. Now pages are starting to catch on and some will automatically check if domain/now exists when visiting a new site.

What if /required became such a convention? Not forced upon you but expected to be there should you want to go looking for it?

Required reading?

Failing at blogging?

Manuel wrote a post outlining why he's failed at blogging in the past (his words) and it really resonates.

A big part of it is the pressure he has put himself under including the desire to write in a more journalistic style, as I previously mentioned, and there is always the issue of just trying to be perfect.

But he also mentions a couple of other reasons:

  • he's always been a tinkerer, and
  • there's always another pet project

Depending on the type of blog you are writing these two need not actually be barriers to blogging.

It's true, we can spend incredible amounts of time coding and styling and tweaking, and this can often happen in lieu of writing. Perhaps we can justify to ourselves that we need our site to be perfect before pushing our thoughts to it but, if you're anything like me, you're never completely happy.

Other pet projects can also get in the way and, after all, we only have so much time in the day and, the more we do, something has to slip.

But, both of these can actually be good sources for blogging as you can write up your thoughts and progress as you go which, by their very nature, are definitely not in perfect territory.

But that's not for everyone.

Failing at blogging?

1000 postsComments

This is my 1000th post here at Social Thoughts. Normally, that would be a milestone worth celebrating but the way I've reached it really illustrates just how much blogging has changed for me.

I moved to this site in April 2008, almost nine and a half years ago. That's a crazy thought in itself! The change from .me.uk to the .blog domain happened back in March.

While I took a number of breaks, and became a self-imposed blogging exile for quite some time, there were only 358 posts from 2008 to February 2nd this year.

That's a ridiculously low posting average. If you factor out the times I wasn't blogging it works out somewhere around a post per week.

Compare that with a total of 642 posts in the 228 days since I first announced that I would be integrating microblogging here at the site, almost three posts per day, and you have quite a stark contrast.

While I am pleased and proud to have reached this milestone it is tempered somewhat by the changing nature of what I've been doing.

On the other hand, I am enjoying blogging now more than I have in a long time. The addition of microblogging greatly removes the burden of constantly writing essay pieces and the clamour for perfection that it instills. And that's something to be thankful for.

So, you know what? I'm going to let myself enjoy it! 🎉

1000 posts

Just the right amountComments

Manuel Rieß (anglicised as Riess) started a new blog.

What's so great about that you might think. Well, it wasn't just that he started one but what he started it with.

The blog is called Think Lagom and his first proper post explains the meaning. It starts:

"Ever since I learned the Swedish language for my time at a university in this beautiful country, there was one word that especially spoke to me. It probably is the word that describes the Swedish culture the best. It’s not just a word… it’s a way of life, a way of thinking."

I immediately made a mental link to the Danish word hygge which has become a real fashion piece lately. It means:

"a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being."

It's one of those words, like lagom, that has no direct translation - more a feeling than a word - and so becomes whatever you want it to.

Unfortunately, in the case of hygge, it has become a marketing ploy, a commodity, a way to rebrand normal stuff and justify a big, new price tag.

Don't get me wrong, I think we should all try to relax and bring that element of coziness to our lives, to disconnect from the online world and reconnect with what and who really matters offline. I just resent the way it has been done and that we should need a marketing trend to remind us to do so.

When I read that opening paragraph I thought "here we go again" but I carried on reading and was glad I did.

Lagom means "just the right amount". As Manuel says:

"Not too much, not too little. Not too loud, not to quiet. Not too hot, not too cold. It’s a word of reasoning. It speaks to my nature."

He goes on:

"... everything is overhyped, everything is the best, the most amazing thing ever; or the worst, the crappiest, the most unnecessary and stupid thing of all times. Everything is extreme. Everything else is boring."

He's right, and he thinks it means we should really think about what matters to us as only we can judge what is just the right amount.

And it's in that mindset that he starts the blog:

"It surely will not be the greatest blog ever. Heck, barely anyone will probably notice it. Maybe it will see a couple of posts each week, maybe it will see a post every other month."

But, so what? That's perfect.

A blog is a very personal undertaking, a digital manifestation of an individual. Or at least it should be. Forget trying to be popular, forget apologies and explanations, forget schedules. Just post. What is needed, when it's needed; not too much or too little. Just the right amount.

I thought that was a fantastic sentiment with which to start a blog and made me wish that I put that much consideration into mine.

Sadly, a search seems to indicate that lagom is to be the next big thing in lifestyle marketing, at risk of taking over from hygge and becoming exactly what it is not.

I hope that doesn't happen but, even if it does, I hope Manuel can stick to his principles as lagom is the best way I can imagine to approach blogging.

Just the right amount

Why we need short form content on our blogsComments

Chris Lovie-Tyler makes an interesting observation:

"When I first started blogging, it felt like the expectation was that blog posts should be about 500 words"

I went back through some posts and found when he started. He's right.

I've been recently thinking about how the web and such expectations have changed and how this affected the way I've blogged over the years.

When I first started properly in 2003 I wasn't really sure what I was doing or what I should be writing about. I just knew I wanted to be one of the "cool kids" and have a presence on the web.

In those days I just used to write a combination of what had been happening, some tech stuff (mainly Microsoft based) and a lot of meta posts as I tried to make SharePoint a viable blogging platform. Unfortunately, the first snapshots of that old blog are from 2004 but they serve as an indication of how things used to be.

After a while, the influence of the "Tech blogs" grew and it became more fashionable to write longer posts. Bloggers were no longer the stereotypical losers writing about their lunch and their pets - the line between blogging and journalism started to blur.

In my pre/early internet days I had written a number of letters and pieces which were published in few a different magazines; writing in a more journalistic style, therefore appealed to me but, as Chris says, the expectation became that blog posts should be 500 plus words.

Over the course of a few years blogging became less about being a representation of you on the web and more about think pieces and essays, everyone trying to one up each other with a hot take on even the smallest story.

Shorter posts disappeared from all but the most ardent of personal sites instead moving to the ever growing social networks and an era ended.

I was as guilty as anyone, a move I often regret.

Social networks were a brave new world, a movement that was going to change the world for the better but they needed money to survive and business models sadly replaced noble ideals despite all protestations to the opposite.

But that's an argument for a different day. It's just ironic that what helped destroy short form blogging became its replacement.

For most.

Constantly writing more than 500 words is hard, very hard. I had enough trouble writing 300 words a day for a year during my write365 project. I burnt out.

And this is also why many others no longer blog. Once shorter posts became almost taboo they lost much of their material. The effort required to blog on a regular basis became too great. It was far easier to throw out a tweet, a dozen, a hundred, and still feel productive with minimal effort.

But the return to indie blogging is growing in momentum. As Manton writes: "By taking microblogging back from Twitter, we create a natural place for traditional blogs to grow." While he states that "microblogging is the gateway drug for long-form content" we must not treat it as merely a stepping stone only to be discarded when the high is no longer enough.

We already made that mistake once. We need both!

Why we need short form content on our blogs

As I mentioned, I have been reconsidering the way comments work on the blog.

I disabled them some time ago, fed up with the overhead of moderation, then outsourced replies to Medium for a while followed by webmentions and micro.blog.

While I have been reasonably happy with this arrangement I have also been wondering if it is enough. I said earlier that I am guilty of forcing readers to interact in certain ways and that is against the objectives of an open web.

Colin Devroe's post was the tipping point (I told you his points were compelling) and I decided it was time to get over myself and look at opening things up again.

When changing my theme last year I had completely removed all comment functionality, recently opting to write a custom comment section to handle webmentions. This was divided into three sections: replies, likes and generic webmentions not recognised as any other type.

This meant that I had to restore the original code for standard comments and combine it with the webmention handling to retain the division between comment types.

So, you can now reply to new posts directly on the page as well as reply to existing comments; the latter, however, is restricted to actual comments rather than likes or generic mentions.

With the Webmention for Comments plugin replies should send a webmention out to the original comment location if it was received from another site. That's as yet unproven so I'll be giving feedback if that doesn't appear to be happening.

I haven't yet decided whether to go back and enable in situ comments on previous posts or whether this should be a hard cutover. Perhaps I will once I'm happy that everything is working how it should.

One step at a time.

Status

More on comments, platforms and the indiewebComments

Colin Devroe wrote a thorough and thought-provoking response to my most recent musings on replies and comments. I would urge you to check it out.

He makes some very interesting and compelling points while outlining his particular answer to the question about comments.

One such point is that he doesn't like micro.blog becoming a comment platform that every reply has to be sent or received via, otherwise it's akin to a silo and you might as well just use Twitter.

It's an interesting angle.

I've likened it to a comment platform myself but one that's not like a social silo but a feed reader with an inbuilt two-way communication system.

If all you could do was list and reply to posts from blogs hosted with the service then it would, indeed, be considered a silo. Being able to add any RSS or JSON feed to your account, however, opens it up but Colin's objection is still well articulated and I can certainly see his point.

Forcing people to interact via only one avenue is bad for conversation and bad for the web.

I'm personally guilty of limiting my reader's options (although I am reconsidering this) but, if you are using micro.blog as a comment platform it means that your site accepts webmentions which can obviously originate from anywhere able to send them.

It's a shame this isn't more widespread.

But what really got me thinking was Colin's observation:

"I do have a M.b account but I’m beginning to wonder if I need one as I have my own fully functional weblog."

That's both perfect and prophetic.

Ideally, this is the open web's goal: for people not to need something like micro.blog; for connective technologies to be sufficiently simple and widespread that ideas can be posted and conversations had between any site regardless of platform or hosting.

I think something like micro.blog is a stepping stone, a proof of concept, if you will. Because the web is so dominated by platforms and silos we need it (or, rather, a familiar platform-style service) to serve as an effective illustration of how blogs in different locations can be truly connected and interact directly with each other via #indieweb style technologies.

Whether that is the way it will ultimately pan out remains to be seen but, as things stand, it is an elegant solution as long as you're willing to work within its limits.

It's not ideal but, if it gets people interested in blogging again and plants the seeds of a more connected open web, I'm all for it.

More on comments, platforms and the indieweb

Pondering Doc Searls’ Thoughts about bloggingComments

John shared a post by Doc Searls from back in February that I had missed - Doc blogs in a couple of different places and this was one I didn't have in my feed reader.

In it Doc shares his thoughts about blogging now in contrast with how it used to be at the "dawn of blogging's golden age."

A couple of points really connected with me.

Firstly, he remarks that this "age" "seems to have come and gone: not away, but... somewhere."

I'm not sure if that's wishful thinking or an allusion to a recent rekindling in old school blogging, people trying to get back to how they used to write and interact, having got temporarily lost in the social age.

This leads to the next point which struck home:

"We lost something big when Twitter and Facebook replaced blogging for many bloggers. The biggest loss was readership."

He goes on:

"I had a very strong sense of connection with those readers, and that's gone now."

This is exactly how I feel the landscape has changed, and as I've mentioned before. The chances were that much of our readership also used to be bloggers so the author/reader relationship was widely reciprocated.

Even those that weren't bloggers used to be heavily engaged, regular commenters who would leave substantial replies to posts. It was common to say that the comment sections on blogs were just as, if not more, valuable than the posts themselves.

Such was the care, thought and consideration put into them.

You felt like you knew your readers and those bloggers, in turn, that you were a reader of.

But social killed much of that.

Social platforms claim to be powered by engagement but it's the wrong kind of engagement, the minimum social actions which are more advertisements for presence and "me too" curation fodder showing off the supposed breadth of someone's reading.

It's ironic that the more we are supposedly connected the more distant we become. Perhaps we are widening the circles of acquaintanceship too far.

We used to focus on our comment sections and those of a select number of blogs we subscribed to, and the intimacy we experienced with our core contributors gave a real sense of community.

That feeling is often replicated in the early days of new platforms and services when user numbers are low and you would see the same names and avatars all the time. Think Twitter, FriendFeed, Buzz, Google+ - even though it was called a wasteland the initial sense of community was amazing.

Each had that "new frontier" aesthetic for their devotees; the untamed badlands to be shaped in our image until they, the great unwashed, discovered it and suddenly the quaint little settlement, where everybody knew everyone else, became full of noise and traffic and strangers.

You can't argue when Doc says that it's "harder to blog when there is very little sense of connection anywhere outside of tweets and retweets, which all have the permanence of snow falling on water."

Such a powerful statement.

But I keep coming back to the notion that the golden age has not gone away, but... somewhere!

Where exactly? Doc says he's "not sure yet" but I think he's got an inkling which is why he phrases it in such a way.

Here's what I think:

The where is with those like himself who, despite it all, kept posting to their blogs even if the engagement wasn't there because it was what they understood and believed in.

It's with the backlash against the new tribalism of social networks, the desire to return to proper conversations rather than playground name calling and increasingly dangerous rhetoric.

It's with those who strive for an open, connected web allowing people to express themselves outside the walls and control of silos and corporate control.

There are pockets of "where" spread across the web - we just need to find them.

Pondering Doc Searls’ Thoughts about blogging

The sands are shiftingComments

Blogging is a particularly singular and personal act despite your posts being publicly available - the unedited voice of a person and all that.

Reading and commenting on blog posts, however, is an inherently social act carried out on a range of scales. Unfortunately, over the years, we have slipped towards the lower end of that range.

Recent posts, discussion and approaches, however, are converging to give me renewed optimism that blogging can regain some of its status and power.

Firstly, micro.blog is a force for blogging connectedness, as I keep saying. Next, there is Richard MacManus' intention to reinvigorate a blogging community. And then Dave Winer's idea to make blogging more like Facebook (but not a silo) and his first efforts with the technology behind "Instant Dave" look interesting.

Then, of course, there is the indieweb movement which, as a whole, is built around the idea of interconnected personal sites.

It feels that there is a concerted effort not to usurp the social networks (they are ideal for certain things which is why they're so popular) but to ensure that blog posts are in the places most suited.

And not just that: to also get bloggers discovering and talking to each other again; to build a genuine dialogue rather than be isolated voices shouting into the abyss.

It may seem like I am repeating myself (and you'd probably be right) but this is something I think deserves repeating.

We have reached a point where a small number of outlets control the bulk of the web's communication, outlets that initially seem ideally suited to the task but operate according to their own rules and agendas. Outlets that control how information is presented, filtered and potentially removed.

Without any real accountability.

Medium tried to buck the trend attracting many influential people but their approach doesn't look sustainable, jumping between business models with no clear path.

What Medium did achieve, however, was to bring blogging back from the wilderness and reintroduce it (as an important means of expression) to the online conversation, raising awareness within the "social generation" who never knew life before Facebook and Twitter.

Never mind SnapChat and the multitude of messaging apps.

It may have become disparagingly known as the place to rant about losing/quit your job but the ease with which celebrities, CEOs and presidents could share extended thoughts with the world cannot be understated. In fact, that ease needs to be replicated by other tools allowing casual or infrequent bloggers to publish as often or as little as they like without a heavy investment or learning curve.

Just in a better environment.

Those looking to do something about it may be coming from different directions with different approaches but their goals are as good as the same.

The sands are shifting and I hope we can find a true oasis in the desert.

The sands are shifting

Rethink, Reconsider, ReevaluateComments

I was thinking more about subscription apps, usage and how I spend most of my creative time on my phone.

I was mostly forcing myself to use Ulysses on the MacBook as I hadn't yet done so post subscription - almost to justify the monthly expense as much as get the benefit from the cross-platform installation.

And I started thinking "what are the alternatives?"

Subscription vs paid upfront? Paid vs free? And, is a premium app even required?

I started looking at some other apps to ensure I was aware of the options but it actually goes way beyond the app quandary.

Drafts is, without question, my most used app but it's not designed to do everything. I don’t think I could rely solely on it without changing my workflow (workflow with a small w.)

Change! That’s a scary thing

But it shouldn’t be. Perhaps I should be looking at alternatives like I did with email apps. Okay, so with those I ended up exactly where I started but that validation likely showed I was on the right path.

At least for me.

Will it be the same with text apps and blogging?

There’s no point me looking at another premium app. I couldn’t afford or justify Ulysses for the Mac without subscription so something of a similar cost, like Scrivener, is not an option.

I need to be honest with myself and ask what do I really need?

Is relying on Workflow to publish viable? It seems, at least in the short term, it is for simpler posts but not posts with multiple images unless I change the way I do things.

There's that word again!

Do then, I need something that can publish directly to WordPress? Does it need to be cross-platform? For the former almost certainly. For the latter, ideally yes if it is to be my only app so maybe something like iA Writer or ByWord.

But I've not had that before now and managed okay. Yes, Ulysses is installed on both phone and MacBook but I’ve not historically been using it that way. Everything has been done on the phone. It always has.

I think I like the idea of having Ulysses available on the MacBook more than I actually need it considering how little I use a laptop. Although I do use the MacBook considerably more than my previous Windows laptop.

Looking at it from another angle, maybe it's the push I need towards 'slow writing' - to spend longer on posts again, to write more long form pieces and redefine what kind of blogger I am.

While I have removed most temptation from my phone (no games, no big social networks) it doesn't stop me wanting to get thoughts out as quickly as possible resulting in a lot of them being shorter pieces that wouldn't be out of place on Facebook.

Shudder!

I may have posted for 172 consecutive days but how much of that is actual writing? What have I had to say during most of that time?

I call myself a writer but what does that really mean? And do I subconsciously equate having a premium writing app with being one?

This post has taken an unexpected turn and maybe this is my real issue: can I justify a premium app subscription if I no longer see myself as a writer?

A blogger, yes. I post stuff to a blog with occasional insight but an actual writer?

I think this is why the simple question "what kind of blogger are you" has had such an impact. It turns out I was already wondering this so, when a non-English speaker phrased their question incorrectly, it set a process in motion and opened the floodgates to a range of emotions that had been previously contained.

Maybe even denied.

I feel like my blogging should mean something again, that I should earn the title 'writer' instead of just assuming it because I just happen to write words on a virtual page.

Anyone can do that. Not anyone can do it well!

Rethink, Reconsider, Reevaluate

Turning back the clockComments

In a kind of "end of chapter 1" post over at AltPlatform, Richard McManus has been able to articulate something that I've been going in circles around but never quite settling on.

"For me, blogging is primarily about connecting to other people around ideas and shared passions."

He goes on to say that he wanted to find a blogging community again.

I've mentioned the way blogging used to be a number of times over the past few months, the way conversations went back and forth between different blogs and bloggers but I didn't invoke the 'c' word: community!

I'm not exactly sure that's what it really is but I know where he's coming from and, in lieu of something better, it's as good a description as any.

Noise

He also points out that the indieweb principle of ownership can contribute to the problem of noise. If everything we do is posted on our own sites and syndicated out it can be a lot of information:

"I certainly don’t want a bunch of other peoples’ checkins clogging up my feed reader."

It's not, however, ownership that's the issue but the management of that which we own.

As I have written:

"Just as not everything needs to be pulled back to your own site does it all need to be pushed out and cross-posted as well?"

Taking possession of your tweets or check-ins or images is great, there's not a problem with that, but specific data types have their intended places; tweets belong on Twitter, check-ins on Swarm, etc. If one data type is cross-posted to a non-native destination it starts to lose its value and diminish the value of that destination.

This applies equally to our sites and feeds.

Own your data, yes, absolutely, but manage it properly and allow your visitors or subscribers to also manage it according to their needs. They should not have to struggle through a quagmire of tweets and check-ins just to reach a blog post.

Back to blogging

As I have made apparent in previous posts, and wholeheartedly agree with Richard, webmentions are the poster child of indieweb technology and are one aspect which can join myriad blogs into this quasi community he seeks.

His post title spells it out, he is "searching for an Open Web blogging model" but:

"the question is how to create a community around these Open Web developments, or at least feel like you’re contributing to the conversation, via blogging."

A set of tools is already there. I'd argue the real question is how to encourage its use when the social behemoths already make it so easy.

And that's why I like micro.blog but there's still such a long way to go.

We can talk all we want about ownership. We can preach about the untrustworthiness and potential demise of social networks taking our data with them to the grave, but billions of people demonstrate on a daily basis that this really isn't an issue for them.

It's like trying to turn back the clock but the world has moved on. Even a lot of old school, staunch bloggers have moved on.

Building that community is going to be hard.

Hard, but not impossible. I think it's a question of scale and expectations.

The old vs the new

We have an ideal way to link things together but support for webmentions is still very limited. Not only do we need to encourage more blogging but also encourage those bloggers to use a consistent means of communicating, whether that's webmentions or something else not created yet.

And we still need better means of discovery.

You can't feel like you're contributing to the conversation if no one knows who or where you are.

Blogrolls had a brief resurgence but that's all gone quiet. A number of people jokingly mentioned resurrecting webrings but are these stalwarts of the old web suited to the new?

Perhaps we need an entirely new model of discovery and consumption, one more suited to the modern, social web.

What form that takes, however, is beyond me.

Turning back the clock