as much as I love my blog, suggesting others start their own like I did is too tall a technical ask. The hosted options come with their own pitfalls. Is there a better way? What might it look like? How do we get there?
Over the past few years I’ve advised many friends to start blogging – or to put it more directly, to start putting their wonderful thoughts and ideas online for others to find.
The first objection is usually that they don’t have anything worth writing about (they always do), or that they’re terrible writers (they’re most certainly not). Once these psychological barriers get cleared and they get some words down on paper, the question then becomes: where do they post them?
The options are not great. There’s self-hosting a blog – requiring a domain, some level of hosting and configuration experience, DNS records, and mucking around with settings to publish a post on Christmas Eve. On the other end of the spectrum there’s going with a existing services, all of which come with some combination of monthly bills, limited customization, and ambiguous and ever-changing terms of service policies.
Personally, my setup sits pretty close to the former end of that spectrum – an automated pipeline from a repository hosted on Github, converted from markdown to HTML by Hugo, and served by Netlify across the planet. This configuration works because it’s been my job for five plus years to build and maintain such contraptions – but that’s not something I can ask of my friends who chose to specialize in different areas of society.
Why now? #
I caught the tail end of the early social internet: I was subscribed to dozens of blogs over RSS, following live chats during keynotes, and spending my off-hours sitting in IRC channels. I then watched all of this slowly fade to the background as people around me began sharing Facebook profile pages and Twitter handles and things began getting swept up The Aggregators.
I don’t think social media is all evil. It’s got its good and its bad. Getting two billion people using a single login screen is mind-blowing if nothing for its scale and magnitude. But these tools are properties and we are their guests, subject to removal at any time. When we are kicked out, we don’t get to take down our images from the walls or keep a copy of the years of writing embedded into the walls of these places. We don’t even get to keep our username; regardless of how long we’ve had it.
I believe it’s important to have a space online that is distinctly one’s own; or as close to it as possible. A living room where the decisions of a team of shareholders doesn’t affect how long my information lives on or who can benefit from it being there. A place I get to customize and open to anyone I choose, for as long as I want. A space built on top of open protocols and with openness, interoperability, and accessibility as core principles.
Why is blogging important? #
Writing online changed my life in ways not simple to quantify but it is my deep conviction there are countless others standing to benefit in ways of similar magnitudes. Ultimately it comes down to making connections with unexpected people: putting my thoughts let people across the world read them and find me. Some of these interactions led to job offers at places I couldn’t imagine existed, while others to long-lasting friendships and communities. Most importantly, it helped me realize there are others like me: curious about similar problems and working towards similar futures.
My goals are twofold: invite more people into this connected reality, and it a better one by creating ethical, transparent, and user-friendly tools for speaking with it. I believe the more people able to share their thoughts with other people on this planet, the better the chances of having increasingly urgent yet intimate conversations about the planet, our relationship with it, and one another. And I believe this conversation should be playing out on the open internet, requiring just a cell phone and an internet connection to participate.
Further questions #
- Is it possible to design a blogging tool so simple my parents could use it?
- Is the metaphor of a “post” the right one? Other potentials include “note”, “thought”, and “page”
- How do you cover storage, processing, and development costs in an ethical and sustainable way?
- In the case the tool is directly or indirectly hosting content, how is illegal content handled
- What is the role of RSS and email subscriptions to keep up to date with people’s writing in a healthy way?