Thoughts on blogging, and blogrolls

I’ve read a lot lately about the web, personal websites, blogging, and the indieweb movement.

I keep meaning to properly underline one particular article or post I’ve read that has inspired me to finally sit down and write, and failing because there have been a lot and they’ve all kind of blurred into one movement in my brain. That’s the problem with ‘studying a subject’ and not ‘keeping references’ I guess.

(I’m going to try to semi-regularly post lists of links to ‘stuff I’ve starred on Pocket or sent to my Kindle’ as this is probably the best filter for links I’ve enjoyed reading or that have inspired me in some way.)

One such post I can point at this time to is Roy Tang‘s Thoughts on Blogging, 2020 edition, which I really enjoyed. I’ve actually been slowly making my way through a number of Roy’s posts – on the subject of blogging, blogging platforms, and so on – for a while now. Hi, Roy!

The post above chimed with me because I go back on forth on what I’m doing when I’m blogging. My blog has, at times, been:

  • a diary or journal;
  • an unrelated series of essays or write-ups on specific subjects or trips;
  • a linkblog;
  • a collection of weeknotes.

And possibly others.

Every few years I find that I want to tidy up old blog posts, and the ones that are often quickest to get culled are either too brief, too personal, poorly formatted, or linkblog entries.

The latter are just… Not what I’m interested in doing. I often feel the urge to post links to stuff, but increasingly I think that’s what Twitter might be better for. Plus Twitter kind of decays gracefully where as a blogpost which is nothing more than a link to a thing with little to no contextual information is a bit weird to have archived as an active page in a blog. think, anyway.

Similarly, as a result of occasionally moving host or CMS, I always end up with a number of broken posts, often those with images embedded. Best case, the images just go a bit wonky, or the formatting of some styles changes significantly from the original design. But worst case I end up seeing a long list of image placeholders where the original images are either no longer loading from the CMS correctly, or the external host has changed the URL or altogether removed them.

The posts that seem to hang around, however, tend to be more standalone essay-type posts. Plus a few trip write-ups where the image formatting hasn’t been completely b0rked – or I’ve felt compelled enough to unb0rk it.

Anyway, Roy and others have written recently on the subject of blogging, and it’s enjoyable to read, and possibly feel as though there’s a small renaissance happening around blogs and RSS and so forth. (Possibly this is just an echo chamber of ever-decreasing circles, but hey).

Like Roy (and Phil, and others), I have found myself adding a number of new blogs to my RSS feeds recently.

This new ‘discovery’ of other blogs has come about purely because people who I enjoy reading have posted links to people they enjoy reading. Sometimes these are occasional ‘new blogs to follow’ type posts (Hi, Kicks!), and other times these new discoveries are thanks to a reprisal of that old-school blogging stalwart, the blogroll.

A blogroll is basically just a list of links to other websites and blogs on a person’s website. No more, no less. It’s different to a webring, which I have also seen a sort of revival of recently, but every implementation I’ve seen of it between now and about 2002 just seems way too hacky and buggy and unpredictable and please just give me a list of URLs.

I don’t have a blogroll on this website yet, but I’m in the process of compiling one. Like others, it’ll basically be a list exported from my RSS feed reader, but I won’t be using JSON or any sort of automation. I don’t know how to do all that. But I do know how to copy and paste. So I’ll do that instead.

Roy’s mention of his own blogroll also mentioned another blogger by the name of Jan-Lukas Else. Jan-Lukas’ blog has already crept into my feed reader’s ‘newish’ folder, and I like the sorts of things he writes about. Hi, Jan-Lukas!

One thing that caught my eye when browsing his website, though, was a neat little banner which goes some way to solving some of the issues of archived/historic blog posts I mentioned above:

banner

It’s a simple solution and I’ve seen it used on news websites that aim to help readers who may have visited a link to what ostensibly looks like a ‘news’ story which (thanks to the less and less ephemeral nature of some big websites like the BBC and the Guardian) might be a decade old or more.

I was, therefore, even more amused to see that – amidst me starting to think about my own beginnings with websites and ‘blogging’ eighteen years ago, that Jan-Lukas – who makes such good use of the banner above – is just twenty years old himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff I’ve seen and read recently: January 2020

I read a lot of stuff on the web, and while a lot of it flies by, some of it sticks or leads me onto other things. From time to time it’s nice to go back through the links and tabs I’ve saved and share the good ones.

It wouldn’t make sense to just publish my Pocket queue. Some things exist only in my phone browser. Some goes to Pocket where it may languish for months. Others get sent straight to my Kindle* to be read before I go to sleep.

Here’s what’s been occupying my mind and eyeballs in recent weeks.

  • Amelia Tait wrote this great piece on her electronic diary. It struck a chord because I too have the majority of my diaries from 2002 to present in an electronic form and it means I can instantly look up places, people, moods… And it’s a blessing and a curse. This kind of article would have been invaluable when doing my university project, and reading things like it always makes me want to return to that area of study.
  • Dan Milnor’s blog is very frequently updated and he talks about cycling, photography, environmental issues, books and whatever else is on his mind. He works for Blurb so he also often has interesting things to say about photobooks and similar projects. As an unstoppable force, he recently announced his latest project/collaboration: AG23.
  • Adam Elkus’ blog was yet another nice one I found on my recent trawl of Kicks Condor’s HrefHunt or that Hacker News thread. I enjoyed a few of his posts, but one that held my attention was this recent one about the videogame DOOM. Something about these sort of very in-depth posts is so enjoyable to read. One person giving their thoughts, impressions, insight and expertise on a (sort-of but not-really) niche subject.
  • Very related, Sophie Haskins‘ website pizzabox.computer (god I am actually starting to love these new TLDs when they’re used well) documents her quest to investigate slim workstation computers (in a so-called pizzabox form factor :3!). I had Sophie’s blog in my RSS feeds from a while back and I was so glad to see a new post for the first time in over a year. Her latest post covers setting up NeXTstep on a HP machine in enjoyably verbose detail – in a very chilled, conversational style which I loved. Even better, she also made a video of this process presented in a similar style which, she teases, should be the first of more to come. Bring it on.
  • I’ve already mentioned Frank Chimero’s blog covering his website redesign ‘in the open’. This recent post which is basically on the subject of website headers and footers is long, sprawling, and thoroughly readable. He writes so entertainingly but also knowledgably. Which is definitely a word.
  • Another find from my latest descent into the hypertext mines is Roy Tang’s website. He writes posts about the state of the/his world, and web and software development past and present.  He also actively writes weeknotes. A recent post about burnout was very interesting, and older posts on redeveloping his website – use of WordPress and Hugo etc – have kept me delving into his extensive (and beautifully-represented) archives.
  • This New Yorker piece on device addiction struck a chord. It was sent my way by Sean Bonner and his excellent email newsletter. The initial mentions of life in north west London were interesting, and the wider concepts discussed tend to make for an fascinating subject. Really interesting to read about the century-old book which explored similar themes of disconnection from human touch. I’m afraid I didn’t know much about the piece’s author, Oliver Sacks, and so it was especially poignant to learn at the end that this had been published posthumously.

*Some such items, like this recent longform piece on Instagram which I didn’t love but didn’t hate, lead to my Kindle’s screensaver having the most incongruous/weird/soothing/serendipitous images displayed on my bedside table:

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