It feels like blogging is still frozen in amber today because we haven’t yet figured out how to attach status to it. People have been blogging for decades, but the most successful bloggers still look surprisingly old-school, with entire micro-communities that thrive solely in their comments and adjacent forums. Although there are an endless number of blogging platforms, they’ve all struggled to create value beyond utility. They provide technical infrastructure for writing and publishing, but not social infrastructure. Eventually, these platforms churn out, with a new prom king crowned every couple of years (Xanga, LiveJournal, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Medium…).
No platform seems to have figured out how to make blogging a legibly high-status activity. I refuse to believe that this is just because bloggers are too cool for platforms, because the same argument could’ve been made for online forums and gaming, and yet we have Twitter and Twitch.
A great thread on metafilter (where I have been a member for over 19 years!!) containing a list of weblogs that I remember reading before most disappeared and people started writing on Facebook and Twitter.
Ben Norris shares how writing and publishing a blog can be a helpful exercise even without a large audience, something I also believe:
Deep down, I know that part of what has held me back from writing more is the feeling of shouting into the void. There is not a large reader base waiting for me to publish again, and so the pressure is less than in other areas of my life. However, throughout the course of this year, I have learned that writing is a helpful exercise for me and my mind. I do not need an audience. I am my audience. The act of processing my thoughts sufficiently to express them is healthy and productive, and requires no other validation to be worthwhile. Hopefully I can remember that.
A somewhat meta discussion about blogs, back in 2006, which feels like a long time ago:
One of the most delicious things about the profoundly parasitical world of blogs is that you don’t have to have anything much to say. Or you just have to have a little tiny thing to say. You just might want to say hello. I’m here. And by the way. On the other hand. Nevertheless. Did you see this? Whatever. A blog is sort of like an exhale. What you hope is that whatever you’re saying is true for about as long as you’re saying it. Even if it’s not much.
I often don’t have much to say, or lack the ability to state what I would like to say, which might partially explain why I have kept this project alive for over 20 years; blogs exist for people like me.
I’ve removed the commenting from the website and deactivated the Disqus plug-in. If any discussion or commenting happens with regards to what I share here, it always happens off-site; either via email, twitter, or the best of all, real life. For an already glacial website the performance penalty isn’t really worth it. To compensate I’ll create a more findable contact method (it’s hidden now so I’m not forced to reply to but the most dedicated communicators).
And speaking of performance, while I don’t have the time at present, I think I’ll be looking into other methods of content management. I don’t imagine I’ll go back to using Movabletype but I’ve been inspired each time I hear the engineers from Forestry.io talk about flat file websites and their performance benefits. Since my templates are decidedly simple, importing all the posts intact might be the greatest challenge, especially since I seem to muck it up each time I have tried to migrate data from one system to another.
My usage of WordPress here is very vanilla and doesn’t require much thought on my part. But a recent experience with a wonderful freelancer who I hired to create another website for me has renewed my hatred for such heavy handed approaches to publishing. She used a theme that would make an excellent case study of all the things you can do wrong in user interface design. It’s attempts at hiding the WordPress UI and code obfuscated the whole process, making it slow and painful. But apparently clients like it.
There is a first time for everything. One of my WordPress sites had malware installed which caused the homepage to redirect to some spam site. Things were much simpler when I used Moveabletype and delivered flat files.
The problem is solved for now, but I still have no idea how “they” managed to get access, nor do I care much to go down the rabbit hole that is exploring all the ways to securing a WordPress install. I already do the most obvious.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I spend my time, or more accurately how I waste it. As I get older I more keenly realize just how much time I have left to devote to the things that have value to me. What return do I get by spending 30+ minutes reading news, blogs, Strava and Facebook over my morning coffee? Other than activating the reward center of my brain, via kudos, hearts or likes, it turns out not much (in the case of news, the stupidity of American politics likely causes a health decline).
The hours I spend running, body weight and weight training everyday, is a wise investment for now and for my future self. But while I wouldn’t attempt to equate the two, the same cannot be said of social media.
I’ve not deleted my accounts but have eliminated most of the time I spend on social sites, Facebook in particular (I still have a lot of automated scripts running that post what I read to twitter).
So why do I still publish a blog? I like owning my data, it’s why I resisted Flicker for so long, and one of the reasons why I self-hosted and spent countless hours learning MovableType in the first place. But that’s not the base reason.
In Contagious: Why Things Catch on, Jonah Berger approaches this question from a product development perspective, in the book he examines what makes a product, idea or behavior more likely to be shared among many people. Roughly he states that sharing certain things makes us look good to others, that we gain a lot of pleasure from sharing, that it can cause us to feel good indirectly – by making us look good. I’m always uncomfortable when I realize that I may follow base human behavior.
Considering that the returning readership to this blog has declined to a handful or less, it’s interesting to consider which of his six key steps that drive people to talk and share I subscribe to:
- Social currency:, It’s all about people talking about things to make themselves look good, rather than bad
- Triggers, which is all about the idea of “top of mind, tip of tongue.” We talk about things that are on the top of our heads.
- Ease for emotion: When we care, we share. The more we care about a piece of information or the more we’re feeling physiologically aroused, the more likely we pass something on.
- Public: When we can see other people doing something, we’re more likely to imitate it.
- Practical value: Basically, it’s the idea of news you can use. We share information to help others, to make them better off.
- Stories, or how we share things that are often wrapped up in stories or narratives.
One or more of these reasons may have been the impetus to start publishing a blog, or personal site, many years ago. There was a tremendous amount of talk after they became popularized about building a professional profile, which may have been some influence as well, but these days it’s as much a habit as anything else. The habit of learning, reflecting, practicing, sharing and teaching should be apart of my professional and non-professional life. So for this excuse I’ll make this my one social media outlet, my echo chamber, where I keep the public data counterpoint to my regular private personal diary writing and Evernote data dump.
My habit of sharing content hasn’t changed much over the years but certainly the ways and or the means of which have. Like most people I have gravitated towards Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or other platforms to spread whatever point or message I am trying to get across. It’s easier and we get that satisfaction from ‘numbers‘(likes, hearts, impressions) which have supplanted other forms of feedback.
As I am about to start something new, and though it’s not entirely certain it will happen, or for how long (I’m leaving Taiwan), I am going to start sharing more of my activities here. Partially due to being inspired by a couple other bloggers who have done the same, and partially out of necessity — connecting to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be spotty at best.
Outside of work and my own personal diary, I’ve never had much patience for writing, so this might just be very twitter or instagram like in form.
Thats the plan anyway.
I miss reading blogs. Not the sometimes highly polished, magazine length, writing for ad views type we see today, but the decidedly personal versions of years past. I haven’t discovered anything new in ages, and they do seem as was reported starting 3 years ago (and likely before that) a dead form of publishing, at least in the form of “the unedited voice of a person.”
I used to learn so much about these strangers lives and learn so much from what they shared. Much of my early learning about user experience was the result of articles and recommended books on blogs. On the rare occasion that I would get to meet them in real life, it was like connecting with someone I knew for years.
Of course, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, Periscope, and others I don’t frequent have all taken over the conversations that I used to find on blogs. Algorithms have somewhat unsuccessfully replaced curation. Facebook is where most short form writing and conversations seems to take place. But it’s decidedly impersonal to me, and not as raw as what I read before; its’ like most people on Facebook never have a bad day.
These roughly 250 meandering words with links is where I’ll end; as I ponder why I still on occasion come here to share.
Article-dump sites take away your editorial control, and reduce you to one voice amongst many. You have no influence over who’s up before or after you, and you have no deeper identity. There’s no sense of inviting the reader in to try what you have to offer, then hoping they’ll stay for more.
I think a lot of people haven’t made that realisation, and that’s a sad thing. Your words, and the stories they tell, deserve more than being the latest morsel on a buffet of tiny, fashionably-circular author photos, to be sampled and then forgotten as the next thing rolls around. Where’s the identity? Where’s the commitment?
Own Your Words
Matt Gemmell writes why he doesn’t post on sites like Medium and instead writes for his own site. This has been my reluctance from the very beginning, when sites like these have appeared, not just for words, of which I write infrequently, but also with my photographs, which I used to share a great deal. This isn’t an activity I pursue with the interest I once had but I still hesitate to share much of anything on services that stand to gain, how ever small, from my thoughts, my content. But mostly it’s a question of warmth and ownership. It just feels different reading words amongst the noise and crassness of Facebook compared to a purpose built space.
… quite the case but ‘blogging’ hasn’t been interesting for me lately.
A Dilbert strip.
A splog, the illegitimate lovechild of spam and blogs, is a website made to look like a blog by streaming fake posts. Instead of musings about politics and technology, splogs are filled with computer-generated gibberish meant to entice search engines to link to them and get people to click on the ads. Utne.
I haven’t written much here in the past few months as I struggle to maintain a difficult schedule of client work, projects, family life, and writing for other weblogs.
Since I am writing elsewhere I am trying a little experiment with an extra column to the right, on the homepage only, to track all my entries on those weblogs that I publish on my own. So far I don’t dig it much but I will give it some time to see if it’s worthwhile or not.
I have another project in the works which will likely influence greatly what I write here. For years I have wanted to publish a magazine in Chinese on topics related to the many facets of developing good user experiences online. Time has past and others have jumped into the fray with some excellent efforts but certainly there is room for another. Hopefully I will be able to announce that here soon and can get back to sharing all the great things I find online related to the topics here on this weblog.
In addition to this weblog I also publish the following:
- Minzoo – Modern gear for babies and their dads
- Pop Wuping – Modern stuff for a mobile lifestyle
- Shao Kelake – Off-the-cuff commentary and destinations of interest
- 35togo – snapshots of life in Taiwan and other parts of Asia
You can find some of my work here:
I want to share this in the hopes that someone else who searches for an answer to the question I had earlier today might save some time. It’s very simple but the answer isn’t easy to find in the all too sparse Moveable Type documentation.
I wanted MT to return the name of the parent category when in a sub-category. So if we were in the “red” it would return the parent value “color”.
Here is what worked for me in a category template:
It took trial and error which is fun but always a time waster.
I created Shao Kelake (that list of links on the sidebar) as sort of a mini-version of this one. A weblog like what I used to have years ago before the proliferation of tools like MoveableType which force you into adding a title to all your babbling. It creates a sense of seriousness that I don’t always appreciate nor enjoy. Shao Kelake has just started and since I have the time I will be expanding it and this blog in the near future. It’s great fun even though most of my visitors to this site tend to be interested in only one or two presentations I wrote quickly a couple years ago.
As an aside, I am amazed as to the seriousness or effort people now put into webloging. Years ago it was people like Volumeone’s Matt Owen who encouraged me to continue doing personal sites (as they were simply called) as a means to learn and push “my limits of online creativity”. These designers always like to use these types of phrases. I’ve always taken that advice to heart though and I have self-published all kinds of crazy stuff over the years – some good, most bad. I’ve lost count as to the number of redesigns, attempts at online magazines, silly flash interfaces, wacky dhtml animations, and personal story telling attempts. Most of these sites required huge amounts of production effort and in some ways that was the point. After all I’m not a writer (yet).
News pages (later called weblogs, logs, and blogs) were different though. Frequent updates required more simple production as everything was done by hand. I eventually stopped trying to do fancy things and just had fun exploring and sharing what I found on the web. Weblogs were my secret weapon at the office as I had my own personal editors scouring the web for the information I needed. It was generally all loosely designed, personal, and fun.
Now look at weblogs. I have been spending a great deal of time lately looking at different sites, hundreds and hundreds of them, in order to inform myself for a few new weblogs I am creating. I am amazed at the effort people have put into the interfaces that frame their written words. CSS files so complete and complex it boggles. Sometimes it feels more about the hidden presentation file than the writing itself. There is allot of great content out there – written ala magazine style – with complete titles, tags, hierarchies, and archives. Bye bye news media, Hello bloggers. A select few are even making a living from writing their weblog. Imagine that!
I’m going to end this quickly and with a long quote from an immensely popular and old school blogger Jason Kottke who informed me today that my desire to create Shao Kelake was not return to the roots of what publishing these kinds of sites was about but a whole new “retro movement” deserving of whole new buzzword.
“On my web travels the other day, I came across a new (to me) kind of weblog, the tumblelog.”
“A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness, a bit like a remaindered links style linklog but with more than just links. They remind me of an older style of blogging, back when people did sites by hand, before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory, blog entries turned into short magazine articles, and posts belonged to a conversation distributed throughout the entire blogosphere. Robot Wisdom and Bifurcated Rivets are two older style weblogs that feel very much like these tumblelogs with minimal commentary, little cross-blog chatter, the barest whiff of a finished published work, almost pure editing…really just a way to quickly publish the “stuff” that you run across every day on the web.”
His weblog entry: Tumblelogs
I have been using MTPaginate on 35togo for quite some time now but I remember having some trouble in the past to get it to work on pages that are primarily text. I can’t remember why this caused so much trouble on that particular client project because it was remarkably easy to get it to work.
My purpose for using MTPaginate was simply to decrease the size of some of my archive pages and to allow for a longer list of entries on my index page ala Gizmodo (and a million other sites). For the archives the benefit is smaller more manageable pages, for the index page it reduces the need for people to enter the archives – those who don’t subscribe to all the feeds on the sight can still get a quick scan of all I have posted over the past 2 weeks.
Here are the tags I used, ignore all the fluffy div stuff:
<div class="date"><MTEnglishOrdinal number='[MTEntryDate format="%d"]'>
<br /><$MTEntryDate format="%b %Y"$></div></MTDateHeader>
<a href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>#more">Continue reading: "<$MTEntryTitle$>" »</a>
<MTIfCommentsActive><a href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>#comments" class="clink">Comments (<$MTEntryCommentCount$>)</a></MTIfCommentsActive> <a href="<$MTEntryPermalink$>" class="plink">Perma-link</a> <span class="tlink"><MTEntryTags><a href="<MTTagArchiveLink>" title="<MTTagDescription>"><MTTagName></a>   </span>
<a href="<$MTPaginateNextPageLink$>" class="emphasis">Next Page</a>
<a href="<$MTPaginatePreviousPageLink$>" class="emphasis">Previous Page</a>
I’ve spent the past week trying out various new plug-ins for Moveable Type as I go about redesigning a couple sites that use MT to manage them. One of the ideas I had, and I am a bit behind in this, was to be able to publish rss feed content within MT templates. There are quite a few services that allow you to do publish rss feeds on your site but I wanted to remove any outside dependencies. And doing it alone is just plain fun.
There used to be a neat little plug-in called rss feed written by Timothy Appnel that I thought would work just fine – it’s still listed on the MT plug-ins directory but it has been unfortunately been discontinued as Timothy Appnel has totally rewritten the plug-in and renamed it Feeds.App. I say unfortunately because despite following his directions to a ‘T’ it has yet to work. Some of the internal uri are wrong as well. It’s a shame that the older plug-in cannot be found and it’s unfortunate that MT doesn’t have a viable plug-in for this purpose. I wonder if developing for MT is slowing compared to the equivalent alternative content management systems.
If you are looking to publish syndicated content using MT you might want to give some thought to using CaRP instead. It works outside of MT but it does work and it is easy to install. As stated in Feed.app’s documentation ToDo, Feed.app is not. Your mileage may vary.
This isn’t all negative of course. I had great fun reacquainting myself with the command line as I had to install various perl modules in an attempt to get the plug-in to work. I miss using telnet and pine.
Edit:I should mention that Timothy Appnel was quite responsive to queries on problems installing the plug-in. The process just seems a bit hit and miss and far too time consuming at this point to make it worthwhile.
“Blogging pioneer Peter Merholz adds, "the power of Weblogs is their ability to immediately put form to thought. I can get an idea in my head–however [half] baked it might be–and, in seconds, share it with the world. Immediately, I get feedback, refinement, stories, and so forth spurred by my little idea. Never before was this possible."Also, blogs are easily linked and cross-linked to form learning communities. A few days after we met, Ashley emailed, "It was interesting how the next day you posted on your blog about our talk, about which David Carter-Tod commented on in his blog. One of my colleagues, Raymond Yee, noticed it after we had lunch, and I told him about our discussion. Then, Yee wrote a post about our circle on his blog. Of course, then I had to comment about it on my blog. It’s all an interesting little Web that blogs make happen so quickly."”
Read: Learn to blog, blog to learn.
I’m pretty much interested in any device that allows for interaction with or creation of information in a usable way. This is especially true if it in anyway can intersect with the web. So it’s unfortunate that of late my schedule at work and school hasn’t allowed me to keep up with all the latest cool info. artifacts that have been appearing.
I was involved with weblogs very early – now it has exploded and has become mainstream (even in Taiwan); I love my wap account and sms but that is old news for kids here; I tried mobile pdas but never could use them for more than reading news – who wants to read news on a pda?; my house in Hsinchu has become a public wireless access point – but it’s a secret; and now I am convinced that mobile “blogging” is going to a great great thing – but I am late to this party as well. Well I am anxious to catch up with this new trend.
So what is mobile blogging or “moblogging’? From the IMC website, “Moblogging is a blanket term that covers a variety of related practices. At its simplest, moblogging (from “mobile web logging”) is merely the use of a phone or other mobile device to publish content to the World Wide Web, whether that content be text, images, media files, or some combination of the above.
Location-specific content goes one step further – it relates and connects to the specific physical place where it was created and published. This permits any particular set of real-world coordinated to be “tagged” with relevant information, from instant restaurant reviews to ski-slope hazard warnings to contextual jokes.”
Apparently the term moblogging was first termed by Adam Greenfield back in November of 2002.
Unfortunately, despite being in existence for sometime there are not an abundance of tools that allow for easy interfacing with my chosen content management system, MoveableType. In fact there do not seem to be a great deal of tools at all. Most of the tools available use email as the posting mechanism. Here are the tools that I have identified to have the greatest chance of success with my set-up and needs:
“Wapblogger is a WAP interface to popular weblog tools Blogger ,LiveJournal and any other weblog-style tool supporting the XML-RPC Blogger API. Post to your weblogs with a WAP enabled cell phone!”
“Pop2blog was created specifically out of a desire to take the jpeg images which the Danger Hiptop (aka T-Mobile Sidekick ) is able to capture and email and post them as entries in a MovableType weblog. It can be seen in use on this site’s main blog page . Because it makes use of MovableType’s XML-RPC, it should be easy to adapt this script to work with any weblog backend that uses the Blogger API. ”
“Mfop2 allows you to moblog without setting up any special scripts on your own mail server. To use Mfop2, all you have to do is register some of your blog details and you will be able to post to your blog from your mobile by emailing your blog entry with images attached to email@example.com.”
I much prefer to install something on my own server instead of using a “free” or trial service. The scripts themselves that are available are quite easy to configure and install but unfortunately all require which extra CPAN modules which seem to be causing me some problems. It may require a more technical mind than mine to get this up and running.
All this makes for a great new product — software accessible from a mobile device and installable on your own server with a minimum of fuss. Either as a compliment to or a replacement for moveabletype.