On Blogging

I have been blogging for a couple years (A generous individual may suggest a few years — but i'm not here to exaggerate my experience). On my last blog, I even built up a meager following of ~120 views/day, sometimes up to 2K on a new post. Those are definitely days gone by, however, as I probably wrote a total of two new posts to that blog since starting University.

I'm not entirely sure of the reason why, but I started losing steam around mid-freshman year. Changing interests, direction, confusion and just existing in a totally new environment for the first time likely contributed to that in some capacity. Put simply, I changed as an individual over the course of this time, and I was confused as to how I could express that over the internet in a bunch of text. In some way, I felt as if the blog no longer represented 'me' any longer. I had started to become alienated from my own writing! Sometimes, even allowing rando's who emailed me clearly commercial guest posts to directly post on there. Just for some meager handcash.

One thing did stay the same, which is my interest in writing. Despite a dead blog, I kept a (sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly) 'journal of life' (I guess I could just refer to it as a diary, or simply 'a journal'). In many ways, I have missed the excitement that comes with a new blog post: setting aside time especially to buy a cup of coffee and go at it for an hour, posting gibberish that transforms itself into some kind of coherent piece of prose (prose likely has too elegant a connotation, moreso ramblings, but I feel that too haphazard a word). The excitement continues with readers, commentators, and social media buzz, where the internet decides on a verdict: Shit Post, College Essay (or, the sometimes more offensive 'High School Essay'), the loathed I agree with this stranger (this often means the post won't get any traction), Controversial, Insightful, or 'Mind-Blowing'. Of course, writing to a blog (moreso at the beginning) is more often than not like throwing some writing at a brick wall and expecting it to react in some way. That is to say, my blog posts have never been 'hits', generated significant social media attention, or been featured on a renowned bloggers website as 'interesting'.

Writing to my old blog, what was http://liquidthink.net (still viewable with The WayBack Machine ) felt a bit isolating — it wasn't really attached to anything. No community, no easy marketing. I set everything up myself, moderated comments, updated JS Scripts, old CSS, SEO, etc. My Code blog was supposed to solve this, at least partly, by eliminating most of the clutter and simplifying the design and dependencies with Jekyll and static site generation. But that came with it's own shortcomings. For one, a disqustingly lackluster comment system (for those who don't know, Disqus is a comment-hosting platform), and I still had to manually keep the website maintained. For many, this isn't a problem, but I found that at least for me actively updating, fixing bugs, and general maintenence of even a static site proved to be too cumbersome a job. I didn't want to write a blog post and fix the CSS (or SCSS-in-JS, or whatever 'hip' tool I was using at the time). I just wanted to write a post. Even simplifying it came with it's own challenges. Minimalisticly-designed blogs often come with significantly less maintenence. In those scenarios, I find myself missing features and end up spending some time researching & implementing them. Disqus & comments are a prime example of this. I didn't like disqus for two simple reasons: Privacy and Speed. It was too 'corporate' for a personal blog, too associated with Wordpress and Gravatar (did you know you can't delete your gravatar account, for as long as the service exists? I've tried) both services I've come to dislike for being too general (they try too hard to be a service for all websites) as well as lacking in privacy. I wanted control over the comments on my blog. Not over what the commentator had to say, but over the process, and storage of these comments. What data the hosting service collects, who gets to see that data. Things like that which I believe should be transparent in a personal blog cannot be made certain if the blog uses Disqus. There are alternatives, and I praise Isso, Staticman, & others for providing them. For me, self-hosting or comments through github aren't a viable option. Comments-by-pull-request seems janky, and if I am going to pay 5$/month for a webserver just to host some comments (which may not give my users confidence anyway, if they don't trust me) I may as well use a dedicated blog platform!

So that's what I did. I looked into blogging platforms; not before spending Labor Day Weekend designing my 'next best' minimal blog design, Ergo. I built and modeled Ergo off of svbtle, naively believing no one will care (or even notice) about some college student whose blog looks almost exactly like Steve Klabniks blog, or any blog on the svbtle network. Only around three-fourths of the way into development did I discover the convtroversy surrounding 'svbtle clones'. Ultimately, this controversy put me off from using the theme I created (actually creating the theme with Gutenberg and Tera was amazing, by the way. Best static site development process I think i've used so far. Definitely the fastest I have used.). I didn't want to start my new blog off on the wrong foot, especially not by being known as a wannabe-svbtle-blogger.

I knew of Medium, of course, just like anyone else. I would have used it (and probably never discovered write.as) if they allowed for custom domains.

Then, this platform. Complete with custom domains, an ultra-simple writing interface, affordable cost (12$/year, and I can host more than one blog?) and ultra simple design. In fact, write.as does away with comments altogether. Instead people can discuss on Twitter, Medium, Tumblr or The Federation.

Most interesting to me was The Federation, a distributed social network of sorts. Kind of like Twitter, kind of like Tumblr, The Federation is an interconnected network of 'nodes' based on an Open Protocol under the GNU License. This license is important, because it means anyone can read what the protocol is and what it contains, and anyone can implement it. And many do, with a number of software platforms available around the world, many of which are FOSS, and GNU licensed themselves. From a privacy usability standpoint, this was great! And write.as included direct support for it (all I had to do was check the box). Along with write.as' own privacy focus, which I admire in and of itself.

I don't have a fancy static site with cool material-design animations, theme switching, or the latest in web-tech to show for myself. There is no comment system, either. All that is are my thoughts, and a few communities through which I can share what I find exciting, interesting, or useful. Hopefully, a few curious individuals can learn something, and be comfortable sharing in turn.