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Dec 22, 2023

The End of Blogging

A bulk of my information diet these days comes from email newsletters. I subscribe to newsletters from news publishers like Axios and the New York times and also personal newsletters from individual commentators. Between personal and professional topics, I probably spend 30+ minutes a day reading newsletters. I don't see RSS feeds promoted as prominently any more. People and organizations have moved their blogging energy to newsletters, LinkedIn articles, or long threads on microblogging networks.

While I feel validated by proof supporting my "Email is the Portal" hypothesis, I am sad that blogging and syndication seems to be disappearing. I like the blogging/syndication model because everyone gets to own a little space on the internet (their blog) and tools (RSS readers) to aggregate content from everyone else's spaces. The system is simple, elegant, and flexible. Everyone has agency to control their content and choose their tools.

The systems that have supplanted the blogging/syndication ecosystem are clearly inferior for the purposes of managing, publishing, and preserving content. In these alternatives, content has no permanent place. You are not going to know about issues from before you subscribed to an email newsletter. Content in an activity feed basically disappears and it's hard to get back to. Thankfully Evernote allows me to store copies of these artifacts.

But the new tools are better for building and measuring audiences because subscription is built into the publisher side of the system. In the blogging/syndication model, the subscriber used their feed reader to subscribe and the publisher needed hacks like FeedBurner and web analytics packages to identify and measure their audiences. With email newsletters, subscribers must provide their email address (and maybe pay money) to get content. On the social media platforms, the audience needs to click the follow button to add their identity to the list of followers.

In this new world, content is an ephemeral input to build an audience. I am not too much of an idealist to realize that the money behind the digital economy always wanted an audience-oriented, rather than content-oriented, ecosystem. People have been talking about "monetizing eyeballs" for decades. But, for someone who loves content (creating, managing, collecting, consuming... all the things), the commoditization hurts just a little bit.

Note... with this post, I have met my 2023 goal to blog every month!

Nov 22, 2023

Daily Journal Experiment

Today I started an experiment to keep a daily journal through the end of the year. The first entry (reposted below) explains why and how. I am cross posting here for some additional accountability. I know that there will be days when I want to skip. I am hoping that the possibility of someone asking about my experiment will help me push through.

2023-11-22 Personal Journal Experiment

With this entry, I am starting an experiment to keep a daily personal journal. My goal is to establish and maintain a habit that will: 1) Make writing easier. The more you do anything, the easier it gets. With writing, practice helps me establish my voice and organize my thoughts. 2) Cultivate my ideas and creativity. I am happiest when my head is full of ideas. But often thoughts pass before I get around to explore and elaborate them to the point where they are worth sharing with others. 3) Encourage myself to reflect on my experiences. I don't learn from experience. I learn from thinking about what I experience. Reflection gives me an opportunity to associate my experience with greater context.

How will I do it?

Since, I am already a Bullet Journal devotee, I will add raw thoughts to my Daily Log. I will block off 30 minutes at the end of each day to write an entry in Evernote (one note per entry). Some of the entries will be refined, expanded, or combined for posts on my public blog.

Why don't I suck it up and post on my public blog every day?

I'm too chicken. I want a safe space to play with ideas that I might disagree with a day later.

Why not use one of those cool journalling apps?

I want to leverage the tools and habits that I already have and I want the content to be integrated with the rest of my life rather than fragmented in some other place.

How polished will the journal entries be?

Journal entries will be polished enough to give voice to an idea. They should be "conversation quality:" coherent enough to share with a friend that is interested in the same topic. No fever dream rambles or short hand notes.

How long will I do this?

I am going to pilot the daily journal until the end of 2023. If it achieves the benefits listed above (or some other values that I don't expect), I will create a 2024 goal to continue.

Jan 04, 2020

Content Here Republished on Pelican

I have been steadily reducing my Google footprint over the past year. I switched from gmail. I no longer use Google drive or photos. And, most recently, I migrated this blog from Blogger to a statically generated site hosted on Amazon S3.

I use a framework called Pelican to generate the full site from content files written in Markdown. I am writing this post using a Markdown editor called Typora, although most text editors have very good Markdown support. Then I run a command that generates HTML files and pushes them to S3.

Migration was incredibly easy. Google Takeout allows you to export all your posts as an Atom file. Then I wrote a script that turned the Atom feed into Markdown files. It was easy to keep the same URLs thanks to the "blogger:filename" elements in the Atom file. For a template, I chose a theme called Blue Penguin. After changing a couple of colors, I was done!

I am still working out the finer points of the workflow. So far, the main limitation I see is that I can't post from any computer like I was able to do with Blogger (and before that Wordpress). Before being able to generate the site, you need to set up a local environment -- not hard thanks to GitHub and Pipenv, but not something that I would want to do on my work computer. Probably the next time I get inspired to blog while traveling, I will email myself a post to publish later.

Overall, I am pretty happy with this setup!

Mar 13, 2009

Blogging: Alive or Dead?

Paul Boutin's Wired article "Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004" last year created a lively dialog about the future of blogging. The general gist of the article (in case you haven't read it) is that mainstream media companies have adopted and started to dominate the blog format while independent bloggers have drifted into the even more casual and spontaneous domain of "status updates."

Independent bloggers do tend to let their productivity ebb and flow and I am sure that many of the "citizen journalists" who were really flowing during the blogging peak are seriously ebbing right now. I agree with Boutin that blogging is no longer the primary way that people casually share ideas. Now, when I run across some interesting information I have three choices. I can blog it, I can bookmark it, or I can tweet it. My general rule of thumb is: when I have something to add, I blog it; when I just want to save it for later (perhaps with a little note), I bookmark it in Delicious (or star it in Google Reader); when I just want to tell my friends, I tweet it. All of my stuff goes into FriendFeed where occasionally people comment and add their own ideas. I imagine other bloggers' productivity is similarly diluted across these other channels.

But Boutin's trend is going even further. There was a great article in the New York Times that described how television journalists are getting addicted to Twitter. Robert Scoble has created his own format on FriendFeed where he starts an item with something like "Why Twitter is not for conversations. I will give you five reasons here:" and then goes on to list them in the comments. As he adds items, everyone else chimes in with their opinions. The result is a Crossfire-like discussion but without the interruptions (and, thankfully, without Tucker Carlson). In this case, he gave 5 reasons out of a total of 158 comments and another 143 people "liked" the post. In these cases the journalist moves from commentator to facilitator or catalyst. But, while this format is very dynamic and has lots of energy, it lacks the authority of a single person summarizing and interpreting the information.

To really develop an idea into a cohesive viewpoint, you may not need to write a 1,400 word exposé but you do need more than 140 characters (FriendFeed allows you more but most people don't use more than 140). And for that type of communication the blog format is very well suited because you have the room to elaborate on your point and you still offer a place for others to make their own comments. Blogging is not going away. If anything, it is displacing the formal article as the preferred format for journalists who appreciate the more intimate relationship with their reading audience that comes with immediate publishing and user submitted comments. My feed reader relentlessly fills up with new content every day so I can't complain about not having enough to read. If anything, I feel like the overall quality of the blogosphere is going up. Blogging isn't dying, it is just maturing. And with maturity, comes sophistication (at least that is what I tell myself).

Mar 05, 2009

FeedBurner and Blogger

A funny thing happened to me a couple of days ago when I completed my move to WordPress by deleting Enter Content Here from Blogger. The old RSS feed (http://contenthere.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default), which FeedBurner somehow kept alive with new content posted on WordPress, suddenly went dark. The net result was that I lost my first 300 (or so) subscribers. To them, I stopped blogging after my eZ Publish Fork post on February 25th. Hopefully, these subscribers will notice the fetch errors and repoint to http://feedproxy.google.com/EnterContentHere (please spread the word).

What took me off guard was that the old RSS feed was being updated by the new site rather than the old site. I think this is because I elected to "merge my feeds" (or something like that) when Google bought FeedBurner. The readers who were subscribed to my old blogspot feed didn't notice my warning posts and the fact that I made the old blog look really ugly by changing the template. They saw the new posts and clicked through to the new blog.

So, if you are thinking about moving off of Blogger, first read this post. Then, if you merged your feeds, remember to put a couple of warning posts on your new blog to let people know you are moving before you delete your old Blogger blog.