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The best way to bring back blogs is to start with your own. It looks like this is the author's fourth post and s/he hit a home run with the top post on HN.

But that's rarely how things work.

The thing few people tell you when you start blogging is how futile it will seem - for a long, long time. You'll start by posting something you put a lot of work into. You'll publish, thinking of all the comments and emails you'll get.

Then, nothing. You'll check the analytics. Abysmal. Nobody is reading!

You may write a few more posts, but it's always the same story. A lot of work goes in, but not much comes out.

And this is the point at which most bloggers stop. After all, how can you justify more time spent on something that doesn't pay back?

The problem is that with a blog you need to think in terms of years. You have to write regularly over the course of years before you'll get any kind of reliable following.

In the meantime, you'll notice how blogging regularly changes you. You'll notice patterns you never noticed before, especially if you stick to a particular "beat." You'll get better at choosing topics. You'll figure out ways to write faster. You'll get better at pushing through mental fog and procrastination that keeps so many others from writing.

You may also discover that you really, really hate writing. Nothing wrong with that, but understand that many people also dislike writing anything longer than a tweet. And that's why good blogs are kind of scarce. And therein lies the opportunity.

Those blogs from the time before were written for the purpose of writing, not for the purpose of getting lots of viewership. The blogs the author misses aren't written to make money off of ad traffic, they were just written to put down ideas. Today that need is filled with Facebook/Twitter/... and even there with the currency of likes/comments those motivations get twisted.

Some of the internet has also shifted to a privacy centric attitude. The whole world is a big place to share intimate stories which will be indexed and used against you in job interviews or by oppressive governments.

I still think there's value in private blogging, writing just to keep your friends and family informed. Blogging doesn't always have to be sharing with the whole world. I wish there were more platforms to make this easy to do.

> Those blogs from the time before were written for the purpose of writing, not for the purpose of getting lots of viewership.

Or, to put that another way: blogs are/were effectively people publicizing their diaries. (Or, in the case of a work blog, publicizing the contents of their https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inventor%27s_notebook).

> Today that need is filled with Facebook/Twitter/

Not really? Facebook/Twitter/etc. are for "what you're thinking right now." Incomplete, out-of-context thoughts. Maybe conversations, where the thought plus access to the author for further questioning can "add up to" a complete, legible text.

I've never seen Facebook/Twitter used for "a breakthrough in understanding you've had, and want to preserve for posterity and your own future reference; where enough context is given that you (or someone else) can recapture the whole of the idea just from the words on the page, 10+ years down the line." That's the sole province of blogging. (Or of books, journal papers, and open letters. But blogs are a lot lower-overhead than any of those.)

> I've never seen Facebook/Twitter used for ...

Sports journalists (including the mathy ones) use Twitter this way. And, boy howdy, do I hate it. But they do.

Twitter is not just incomplete/out of context thoughts. It can be. But not always. Follow the right people. I find it’s great for Javascript patterns and new findings. Of course the content is not discussed in great detail but you can get a quick jist from various sources. The same with instagram for photos. I much prefer to see photos in series but quick snapshot from various sources in one platform. This is what’s destroyed blogging mostly in my opinion, you can micro blog quickly. People used to blog because they wanted a presence on the internet, now you can have that with social media platforms

I am curious about the story behind your username. I don't understand it.

>> Those blogs from the time before were written for the purpose of writing, not for the purpose of getting lots of viewership.

Exactly this. Im not sure if my experience was typical, but i recall lots of small mini communities of bloggers, where each blog would have less than a dozen real followers, but everyone would read the other peoples content. Thats why you had the "follows" tab on the sidebar of the blog.

I also recall a distinction between homepages (IE where useful static information collected in one place) and blogs (personal stories not with the goal of teaching). Homepages could have lots of traffic but little real interaction (like FB today). Blogs would have lots of detailed interaction but but very little viewership.

Definitely true for me in the 2000s. My social network formed a bunch of circles with very little overlap. A blog, like the ones I and some of my friends used to have, would serve as a bridge, thanks to the sidebar linking to other people the blog author reads/recommends. Back in the day, I used to be active in a local gamedev scene, so my sidebar was mostly full of links to blogs of other hobbyist/aspiring game developers, who would in turn link back to me. If you were interested in gamedev, you could easily go from blog to blog and enumerate almost everyone in the group, but at each step you also had an opportunity to branch out to a given author's other interests.

It was a nice way of discovering new things, and a more personal one. You jumped around topics and social networks simultaneously; at every step it wasn't just a new theme, but a new person, an acqauintance of an acquaintance, someone with a name (or more likely then, a nickname) you would remember and refer back to in conversations. Even though we mostly didn't know one another except from blogs and IRC, the Internet felt much more like a village back then. Now, it feels like a strip mall.

Well, this is why I don’t have a blog. I have a lot of strong opinions that might be interesting to some people, but I don’t want to miss opportunities because some HR person googled my name and found a post they disagreed with. Or, in the future, not a real person but an algorithm.

Anecdotal counterexample: I successfully moved from development into technical writing because I had a blog that a company got in touch with me about and said, "We really like your writing. Have you considered being a technical writer?"

My honest feeling is that if you're a good writer and not just posting ranty flamebait -- and "strongly worded and highly opinionated" is not the same thing, although it can be -- blogging is valuable. Or at least it used to be. And really, I'd like to see it make more of a return, too.

Sometimes I feel like I want to write something I have strong opinions about, then I realize how much research I would have to do to actually justify my unfounded opinions and give up.

It requires work to avoid being flamebaity

Start an anonymous blog. I have one. Also an anonymous hacker news account. :)

The trouble with that is that once you post something to it you can never associate it with yourself (even accidentally!) or deanonymization of everything else posted by that identity will also occur.

Half baked idea: A decentralized and properly anonymized (at the protocol level) service intended for long-form articles. Employ cryptographic primitives to allow association of a single article with one or more identities at any time after publication. (I suspect such a system would just end up getting abused, but who knows?)

"Hi! It looks like you're trying to solve complex social problems with technology. Would you like some help in your futile endeavour?"

What complex social problem? All I see are a few technical problems regarding security, anonymity, and interrelations between nodes on a graph. There's also a closely related ease of use (ie UX) problem regarding the convenience (or rather lack thereof) of publishing things in a reasonably anonymous manner.

All the social problems, such as the underlying reasons for wanting or needing anonymity in the first place, remain.

It is a social problem because even the strongest, most bullet-proof cryptography solution can't prevent people slipping up and making mistakes, which a motivated attacker can then use to de-anonymize and connect their various identities together.

And people will slip up and make mistakes. A lot.

I agree that the potential for making mistakes could contribute to a social problem, but it's one that already exists. I also wasn't proposing to solve it - hence my earlier response.

“Authorship Attribution” is an active field of research. Even if you manage to solve the problem of anonymously publishing a bunch of content under distinct anonymous pseudonyms (or completely anonymously), there’s a non-negligible probability that, as soon as the author of one work is identified, the entire body of work can be attributed to that person.

> Half baked idea: A decentralized and properly anonymized (at the protocol level) service intended for long-form articles. Employ cryptographic primitives to allow association of a single article with one or more identities at any time after publication. (I suspect such a system would just end up getting abused, but who knows?)

The downside is that as a reader you wouldn’t be able to follow your favorite authors anymore.

I'm about to release something very similar to this. You might see it here in a week or two

This sounds cool - I'll be keeping an eye out!

You can invent a separate identity with the goal of being deanonymized one day. And post what you want to keep anonymous using other identities.

That won't be safe for very long. De-anonymization based on writing style is pretty good already.

That's definitely true, but depending on the usecase it might not matter all that much. Also, that problem already applies to an anonymous blog anyway!

Consider the usage of semi-anonymous accounts on HN or Reddit or wherever. There's some risk of deanonymization depending on usage style and how determined the attacker is, but it's still quite different from openly publishing things in a manner that links back to you directly.

The issue for me is that (for an anonymous blog) once I decide to publish something to it the article becomes permanently and publicly linked to all the others as well. This means that I can never change my mind in the future without simultaneously changing my mind about all the other content published there. It also means that if I ever slip up (say on a non-anonymous HN account) and reveal that I'm the author then I've inadvertently and publicly tied the entire blog to myself (not just that one article).

An anonymous blog platform that offers a permanent and trusted Delete button could both let you change your mind about a former opinion and offer a fix in case of accidental slip-up

> a permanent and trusted Delete button

Any time bits leave your computer it would be wise to assume that they're out in the world for good. Especially for anything with a distributed architecture, presumably all you have control over is whether your personal box continues distributing it. I suppose you could set a "don't distribute" flag and hope that other hosts choose to honor it ...

Maybe AI that changes the writing style to monotonous style would help.

Say, you always write like Yoda speaks, "Great you are." Then the AI would change it to, "You are great."

I know, I know, it's a tall order.

I suspect that resulting articles would be, while probably reasonably safe from style analysis, awfully boring and difficult to read. Good and interesting writing style is a skill.

You could pass it through a Google Translate, or maybe a couple, then back - correct for minor errors and style has changed (maybe not that much, but enough to scare AI).

Not necessarily that tall: you just need copies of a long enough text, written in different writing styles.

How would such a system be "abused"? What does abuse of a blogging platform even look like? People might write text that others don't want to read?

I hadn't really thought it through honestly. I'm just assuming that if an anonymized publishing service with a low barrier to entry exists that people will find creative ways to misuse it. Semi-related Google Drive usage: (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19907271)

Consider all the issues that Reddit and HN have with spam and other sorts of abuse. Then again, BitTorrent and IPFS seem to work well enough. At a minimum, I suspect that issues will tend to crop up anywhere a search or other curation mechanism exists that can potentially be gamed in order to gain an audience.

I did write a lot of articles anonymously back then(was afraid due to validation/criticism as I was learning) but later I found out that my blogs are legit and people liked them. And later couldn't associate with real me. Now making System design videos with real face and name and able to reach a subset of the audience. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn1XnDWhsLS5URXTi5wtFTA/

Its better in a way. Stupidity rejects you and you end up being in a happy place where you dont have to bend your mind.

It'd be nice if robots.txt were actually respected so that your blog was visible to people you trackback, or from blogs that link to you, but not to search engines.

I find most of my blog entries using search engines. And I suspect I'm not alone in this. Blocking search engines gives you a serious bootstrap problem.

> The blogs the author misses aren't written to make money off of ad traffic, they were just written to put down ideas.

This is what I've been pointing out for years as the lost core of the internet.

It seems like this is a cultural shift in society as well. There are no more hobbies, everything is a side hustle and if you can’t turn a profit from it, it’s not worth doing. I’m not an economist or sociologist so I can’t Even pretend to understand why this is, but it’s a trend I’ve noticed over the past few years.

Not my experience at all. The mods plus fanmade expansions community is bigger than ever. And so is open source. Way more stuff is free now than ever before.

It's not about giving things away for free, it's about doing things you like to do just for your own satisfaction. While there is a lot of that in the mods and open source space, there's also a lot of resume building, portfolio projects, etc. There's an insane amount of pressure to always be "shipping to production" no matter if your hobby is crocheting, gardening, writing code, blogging, building robots, playing music, painting, etc.

Patreon, Etsy, OnlyFans, Kickstarter, and even Github (just to scratch the surface) all serve to put pressure on creators to turn their hobbies into second jobs.

I'm sorry you feel this way, but I do not think this is true for most creators. Too many of my friends have made wonderful things for the sake of it. And they're so self-effacing, they won't even mention these things.

Not judging you or your friends, but perhaps those who can do hobbies just for fun are in a position of privilege (enough time, money, financial and professional security) to be able to do so? The "hustle culture" is very real and is I think a side effect of the gig economy and the end of the 9-5 secure job with its strict boundaries of work and leisure time. If you still have that kind of job it's easier to have hobbies with no outcome than personal satisfaction (assuming no other "distractions" like small children). Most creators I happen to know are hustling, whether on Github or Wordpress or Etsy or IRL, either trying to make some money on the side or building a portfolio for their career or to help them score their next gig. Those that aren't are retired or have some secure, traditional 9-5.

Interesting. It's exactly the opposite. The guys I'm talking about are all running their own startups or at startups. So definitely not 9-5s.

Open source has a huge "personal brand-building" aspect to it

Is that true? Or is it just the case that people trying to make a profit have learned how to promote themselves to an extent that drowns out the hobbyists?

I had some hobby pages in the 1990s that got a lot of views and came high up in search results. None of them were ever deliberately publicised. I doubt that any of my material would show in the top 1000 of any web search today.

I've been saying for years that people need to stop pressuring themselves into being good at their hobbies. Have fun first, who cares if you can't sing/draw/paint?

This seems to be a function of the people you hang around with.

Hobbies for most people are a way to spend money, not make it. No one I know has "side hustles"

The internet has stopped being an internet but rather being a few large intranets.

It’s the corporate internet, upload/download ratio, it’s the lack of IP address space.

It’s social media, it’s private blogging platforms and it’s the plight for power.

It's the way you're given knowledge, slow with thought control and subtle hints

It's the fast talk they use to abuse and feed my brain

It stretches for as far as the eye can see

It's reality, fuck it, it's everything but me

Atmosphere - Scapegoat, with some blogging additions

Hell yeah! Never thought to find an Atmosphere reference in the comments @ HN.

It's VERY hard to make money with Google AdSense types of programs. The volume of traffic you need is so high that if you're there, it probably "pays" to sell the ads yourself and keep all the $$$. But that's hella difficult.

Almost all news organizations -- they're not bloggers but chances are they're using blogging software (mostly WordPress) -- have figured this out. And they're still not making enough money from advertising. Hence subscriptions. Bloggers can go this route directly with https://substack.com.

Google-owned YouTube's willingness to compensate those who make popular videos has fueled that service's growth and helped it draw a young audience.

The fact that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have no way of "paying" its top performers, as it were, is interesting. You get paid in eyeballs. In exposure. Since the pay for blogs is usually non-existent, there's some value in the "likes," and most people who envision making money off of their social-media/internet presence need to get a side hustle to their side hustle -- a product they can make and sell.

I think it lives on in big platforms like Reddit, but I agree that it used to be far more prevalent on the net than it is.

Youtube is a good example. It used to be so fun to just throw up videos on the internet, without caring how far they would really go. I definitely think there are great content creators on it nowadays and I'm glad that they're being paid for their hard work, but it still feels like we've lost something.

>Those blogs from the time before were written for the purpose of writing, not for the purpose of getting lots of viewership.

This right here. You all need to calm down like you're all so unique you are all owed 1000s of views a day. Write for the sake of writing- it's rewarding in and of itself.

Facebook/Twitter is terrible for putting down ideas. You don’t control what happens to your content. Posts get lost in the sea of millions of other posts. These companies constantly change policies.

Writing is a public act. You might still be expecting some readership without the expectation of ad money or promotion of something.

What I miss most about the blogs in 90s and early 00s is the conversation between blogs by linking, quoting and commenting each other. Reading blogs involved going from one blog to another, and reading blogs of 10 people about a single issue. It was a conversation. And you would constantly discover new blogs this way.

The thing I miss most is LiveJournal. Sure, over time it kind of failed, and later having data owned by possibly nefarious new owners didn't help reputationally, but what I loved was having a small, approved set of people who could read, and getting to know other people in long form, where writing was the primary draw, rather than links, brags, and ads, like social media has become. I miss the very internal nature that the platform allowed, but it was a more naive time, where the idea that whatever was there would inevitably become public wasn't a barrier to intimacy.

> written for the purpose of writing, not for the purpose of getting lots of viewership

I've never really bought this line of argument. People who "write just for writing" don't publish. They write it in One Note or Evernote or Tiddlywiki or plain old text files on their laptop. They don't sign up for Wordpress accounts (or even worse, spend hours configuring some static site generator) and publish it.

People publish things because they want them to be read. Having no indication that they are being read is, understandably, discouraging for people who are publishing things.

There is of course a middle ground between 'writing for writing' and 'writing for payback'. For instance people might want to post how they did some stuff, with the hope that it helps at least one guy. That's how most blog were written.

Then internet slowly became a place where everything is a business opportunity, and blogs were relayed into the second zone. Google also somehow became much less useful when it comes to find good blogs, probably because of aggressive SEO.

This is so true... Youtube is kind of the new blog because so many people don't like writing but they love seeing themselves on screen. This made it too commercial. All the top youtubers do it just for the sponsorship. People like Linus Tech Tips etc, all this "check this out from our sponsors" crap. It really put me off Youtube. The only ones I still watch are zero punctuation and EEVBlog. Dave is also doing it as a job but at least he didn't become annoying.

Besides, I really prefer to read over watching videos as I can do it at my own pace. Except in cases where a lot is shown like EEVBlog, it makes sense there.

But easy platforms exist. Wordpress is still there :) You just have to keep it up to date like a hawk.

You might be interested by this: https://sponsor.ajay.app/

> I wish there were more platforms to make this easy to do.

Don't they all work like this by default? You don't have to share what you write everywhere. You also don't need to use FB or Twitter to blog.

I wouldn't put an idea on Twitter or Facebook. That's where I put a short joke, or a pun, or some political troll meme. Then I watch the mentions and likes roll in. That's not to say that it never happens, but they aren't really well made platforms for it, outside posting a link to an actual blog.

Personally, I think the blogosphere is covered pretty well for me by the likes of Medium. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but they've made a damn good job at cornering that part of the market for those more serious posts that were previously relegated to the blogosphere. That's a place I'd put a more well-formed idea. A great example is the article, "Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now" by Thomas Pueyo.[1]

Outside that, blogs still exists! I still even have my own. I think the complaint is rather that they're hard to index or search. And to that end, there are many solutions and ways around it that still exist, such as syndication or even RSS.

[1]: https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-act-today-or-peop...

I blog about my electronics project. It's public in that it's online and accessible but it is for me, both to ensure I think things through well enough to write them down coherently and to have a reference for decisions.

I blog my work activities on an internal wiki for similar reasons. Major decisions need to be gathered in project documentation but small decisions and daily challenges are good to have written down.

Yes - when I was overseas I kept a "blog" in the form of a website hosted at my university. I'd update it with a few pictures and some text about new things I was experiencing.

It was more of a journal and something maybe if my friends and family wanted to read, they could. A slightly extroverted way of showing your inner thoughts and life.

> used against you in job interviews

I used to think blogging come as complementary to your skills. How will anyone use them against you?

Well, it depends on what you blog about.

If, say, you blog about some social/economic/political position that is (or becomes) unpopular/unacceptable, your career may be toast. Such as, for example, happened for James Damore.

So if you're going to blog as your meatspace identity, you gotta protect your brand.

If you want to blog carelessly, you'd better do that using a persona that can't readily be linked to your meatspace identity. That's why I'm here as Mirimir.

But even then, Mirimir has a reputation to protect. And that's why I use other personas, which can't readily be linked to this one.

Can you leverage Mirimir ever in your real life? If Mirimir writes some stupendous essays but 5% of his posts are critical of say, some aspect of the LGBT community, then wouldn't it be a huge risk to your IRL reputation? Then you couldn't admit that you're Mirimir to others IRL.

But I like the idea of blogging under a fake name! This will sound ridiculous, but I'm a young individual with big ambitions. I don't want to blog, lest my future enemies figure out my psyche to use it against me.

Yes, that is indeed a limitation. Nobody IRL will ever know that I'm Mirimir. Also, I can't attend physical events as Mirimir, or do anything with audio/video.

I suppose that you could use other personas for totally non-controversial stuff. Indeed, you could have a range of them, and disclose some if you like.

There is the issue of writing style. At this point, Mirimir is my only persona that writes extensively in English. There are a few others that are basically Mirimir's pseudonyms. But my IRL identity doesn't post much in English. For some others, I've translated into other languages, using offline software.

> I don't want to blog, lest my future enemies figure out my psyche to use it against me.

I think you overestimate the sophistication of your future enemies. The bigger risk may be that by not blogging you don't figure out your psyche, to use it for you.

It's sad, but that's the reality of things in our "politically correct" modern world.

When are you thinking it was better?

The world hasn't had enormous user generated content platforms (where it's reasonably common to use your real name) for very long at all. But I would say it started out in a much better state than it is now, and has been progressively getting worse. It's reasonably common to have somebody held in high esteem by the various groups that are highly concerned with political correctness, suffer catastrophic falls from grace after some ancient tweet is discovered, from back in a time when it was OK to have opinions and make jokes. Personally, I would never risk publicly voicing an opinion on any topic that was strictly technical.

You mean "not strictly technical", right?

As Mirimir, I have voiced opinions about such topics. I'm not dogmatic, but neither do I avoid dark humor, so I suspect that I've managed to piss off some on every "side".

Anyway, I was thinking about decades ago. There were opinions that you just didn't voice, if you cared about your reputation. Back in the 50s, communism became a dangerous topic in the US. And homosexuality was a dangerous topic there until the late 70s. Although there were some flamboyant stars, and cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny, they were just perceived as strange.

Further back, dissent among Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony led to the establishment of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

> You mean "not strictly technical", right?

Yes I did, sorry.

The rest of your comment here highlights why I believe freedom of expression is so important. Society would not have progressed if it were not for people brave enough to defy those social norms. I guess the intolerance for alternative points of view has not changed, but over the past ten years or so we have seen the establishment of an entirely new set of sacred social norms, which I would characterize as a bit of a regression.

> ... over the past ten years or so we have seen the establishment of an entirely new set of sacred social norms ...

That depends on who you are, and where you hang out.

By "sacred social norms", I presume that you mean what some call the "social justice movement": liberal perspectives on "race", culture, sexuality, gender, and other human rights. It's true that those norms now apply for liberal mass media, academica, and large enterprises. And increasingly, they've become part of state and federal law.

Those norms reflect activism over at least the past 200 years. However, change hasn't been steady or even monotonic. Recent reverses occurred during the Reagan era, driven by the Moral Majority. And again during the Bush II era, driven by them and the New Right.

American society has also become increasingly polarized since the 60s. Although the mass media has become increasingly liberal, the Fox News Network and associated talk radio developed. And since the early 90s, development of the Internet has dramatically increased polarization.

So now we're in the Trump era. By 2016, American society was already so polarized that the liberal mass media was totally blind sided by Trump's election. And even after three years, they're still convinced that it was a Russian plot.

Anyway, it's hard to say whether the intolerance of the "social justice movement" has caused the backlash, or whether the backlash has driven the intolerance. But either way, both sides are ~equally intolerant.

And yes, it's a disturbing development. At some point, it may drive the US to partition. Much like India split off Pakistan, but on a larger scale.

I mostly agree with you. But I do take issue with this:

>But either way, both sides are ~equally intolerant.

When I was growing up it was the intolerance of Christian morality that prevented people from living their lives and expressing themselves the way they wanted to. The intolerance was a largely bipartisan (see the PMRC with Tipper Gore and Paula Hawkins for instance), but it was really the Democrats that gave way to social progress first, and the Republican party still today retains a reputation for Christian puritanism. The modern flavor of puritanism most certainly comes more from the other side of the isle (whether you want to call it the "social justice movement" or anything else). The basis of each of those political stances is the same. People should not be able say anything they want, or live any way they please, because allowing them to do so would risk causing offence. I've supported gay marriage since the 90s, and for the same reason that I support freedom of expression today. In the past those views (which I have not changed) aligned me much more firmly with the "left" than the "right", and the reverse is true today. I would argue that modern "progressive" (or whatever else you want to call it) politics has no room for freedom of expression, because it won't tolerate anything seen as "offensive", "hateful" or "dangerous". Which is basically the same premise that has obstructed all of our past social progress up to this point.

> In the past those views (which I have not changed) aligned me much more firmly with the "left" than the "right", and the reverse is true today.

Yeah, same here.

But arguably the "right" just talks that way because they're recruiting. If they had a lock on the government, and the mass media bagged, they'd be far less tolerant.

But in any case, that's why I'm an anonymous coward. In meatspace, I just keep my head down. Nothing to see here, move along.

I won't argue whether the (American) left is necessarily protecting free speech at all costs. That's a complicated question.

But I think it's a stretch to call the situation "reversed". You can see the right often using the very methods and talking points they seem to criticize on the left. From efforts to shut down protests, to constant usage of patriotic symbols to silence speech ("if you kneel during the anthem, you're disrespecting the flag"), to starting investigations for cases where speech didn't align with their values.

Here's an article about growing right-wing threats to free speech on campus for example. Note, this article was published in Reason of all places: https://reason.com/2019/09/19/the-growing-right-wing-threat-...

I've recently built https://flipso.com — It's a mix of Posterous and Tumblr with optional private channels you mentioned.

I often notice when I start writing on a particular topic, I learn more about my thoughts and opinions of it and realize my thoughts are wrong or not really novel. Halfway in I give up since I feel like, "oh, this actually isn't really adding anything new to the conversation". Then I leave with a new humbleness about my beliefs but also a sense of "when am I actually going to know enough to warrant writing about it?".

That's awesome! If only most people would do that, I think the internet would be a much more entertaining and enlightening place.

Here's the thing: write that. Go meta, just a little, and write about your journey. "I thought this, but then I found out that, and now my questions have evolved thus..."

I think it was Orson Welles who, when somebody asked him if they could write his biography, said, "No, because it will be false. You may write the story of your attempt to discover the truth of my life."

You can add tremendious value just by publishing your research and linking to the sources, even if you have not added anything, those hours you spent searching - that your readers dont have to, and likely your readers dont have the same experience as you, so they wont be able to read the sorces critically. So by not adding anything, you can still save someone years of time.

There is also nothing wrong with serving good knowelage, even if you can find the information somewhere else. Maybe your source is 10 years old, what has happened since? Or maybe its hard to understand for laymen. Or maybe the other sources will fall off the web, great websites disappears in the thousands every day.

Maybe someone is looking for a tech, but there's little info out there, even if the i info is good, it can still be dismissed. Help spread the knowledge.

Then there's the noise to signal problem. Your blog will be a light beacon - for others to navigate around all the crap.

Coming from the guy who made the best biopic movie of all time, I would expect nothing less.

It also seems likely that that idea is also not novel, so that the previous poster wouldn't want to blog publicly about it.

You've gone too meta. ;-)

I struggle with this too, but then I think on how many of the blogs I read basically say the same thing over and over again, or just rephrase ideas from other places.

When you're familiar with an idea, it seems to you like it's obvious and it's mentioned everywhere, but there are also lots of people out there for whom it will be new. Maybe you aren't the first one to say it, but you're the first one they heard it from. You'll inevitably put your own spin on it, too. I've been working on convincing myself that it's not necessary to come up with some completely novel thought that nobody ever thought before in order to just post something. Practically nobody does that.

I am similar but I would suggest that you could reframe your post. "I started this post with the intention of... and then realised that... (The idea is not a new one/I was wrong/changed my mind because/the idea doesn't make sense etc)." You could even link back to more informative resources on the topic.

Not everything has to be new or novel. You may add to the discussion and enhance it by writing about what informed your change of heart.

thats a great mindset, but its also funny because a lot of blog posts that do well are about rehashing basic things like "why open offices suck", or "why i chose node instead of ruby"

Yeah and when I think about writing about rehashing basic things, I realize why those basic things are so prevalent and why they actually shouldn't be rehashed. It's like a call to enlightenment.

The end result of any good writing process is a writer who does no longer need to write it in the first place.

What about when I go through this process so fast that I don't even need to write about it to realize I know nothing?

I'm 26 and I see people writing about stuff that are much younger than me and I still think "I know nothing". Maybe I have a huge case of imposter syndrome?

I have this happen too. What this means at least for me, is that I have dozens of little ideas of things to write about, usually after I’ve seen that I’ve encountered it multiple times, I really think I have a position on it, and I want to really see where they would go (those who know me on the site may have some good guesses as to what I currently have stashed for this). And then I stick that idea in a little list I call “future blog posts” and slowly add ideas to them over months (note I have not actually written anything for the blog post yet!) until they are polished the key points I really want to include and a coherent story that I want to tell with them. Then I sit down and write them, and by that time I’m very confident of which way I’m going, the rebuttals and my responses to those just flow naturally, and I generally keep that position in the future.

That happens to me too. You really thing you have something interesting to tell, and then bam, just a silly thought... good that I realized that before publishing it.

I'm curious what your silly thoughts are. How do you know that I will share your judgement of what a silly thought is? What is a silly thought to you after writing something down might be of interest to a random internet user. Is it not presumptive to assume that everyone else will share your judgement?

That's a good point. I sometimes get a feeling that only an idiot would think my thoughts were good and most people are not idiots so whatever I write about won't be useful.

I look at it as a writing exercise along the lines of "you remember 60% of what you hear and 90% of what you had to research and write". Yeah, your article probably isn't going to catch fire and open a bunch of eyes. But the exercise of writing it almost certainly improved your understanding of the problem space, so if it ends up being useful to someone or gets you some small amount of clout that's a bonus.

This is me, but for writing and also for business ideas.

I'm the same way, I remember getting that feeling of sudden understanding right at the end of writing an essay in school. But I no longer had any time left to actually present my new found understanding.

On the other hand, writing things down or explaining them is a good way to find flaws in your understanding.

> You'll check the analytics. Abysmal. Nobody is reading!

And that, right there, is the best reason to remove all analytics from your blog/website[1]. At the risk of being held guilty of self-promotion, I wrote a little blog post about just this a couple of weeks ago: https://one.mikro2nd.net/2020/05/why-no-web-analytics-are-to... (Thing is, if anybody here does go and read it, I won't even know.)

At the root of the unease is the question, "Why are you blogging?" If it's something you do for yourself, then analytics -- specifically: who is reading which posts -- is a distraction, and sure to lead you astray into the thickets and quagmire of writing mere clickbait.

If you're writing to establish "thought leadership" in some sphere, then display leadership, not followership (i.e. chasing the analytics.) It's a strange and uncomfortable feeling at first (perhaps always!) but at least you'll always know who you're writing for (yourself). If you're writing for some "payback" then I'd suggest that submitting articles to magazines is a better path/platform than blogging.

Personally I am more interested in inciting thought and discussion through my blog, so mere visitor statistics are of little interest. What would validate what I do there would be someone who reaches out to talk about something I've written. That's the real payback.

[1] Nor any trackers of any sort.

I started my own blog last month and I am following this advice 100%. I'm not using analytics or trackers of any sort, not only for believing they create they same delusion you mention in your post, but also because I try to block all types of trackers when visiting other sites.

Why would I use the very thing I'm trying so hard to avoid when surfing the web? It's basically a matter of respect to the reader. So I designed my site following the values I consider so important for websites in general: no trackers, no mandatory javascript, no obstacles between the user and the content.

Your reason -- respect for your readers, treating them as you wish to be treated yourself -- is the exact reason I started down this road. It took me a while to realise that there was this other, more subtle, benefit, too.

+1 on joining in. Perhaps we can turn it into a movement. ;)

Note that you can’t actually get rid of all knowledge of which blog posts of yours are popular, because you’ll find out in other ways: it’ll be on the front page of Hacker News or people will email you about it, or a friend will link it back to you. If you’re looking for privacy-preserving analytics, this is the ultimate in that. If you want nothing at all…yeah, there’s really no way to run away from the world after you publish something.

The publish or perish nature of blogs is one of the many reasons why I feel they're generally inferior to the personal web pages that were popular during the early web. It seems that there has been a general trend towards a constant churning of output in order to keep up the dopamine hits for users. The quality of a lot of online content reflects this.

Yeah. The antithesis of the blog is the evergreen page, where you collect and systematize information about one thing you're interested in, and keep improving it over the years. A great example is Robin Whittle's page about pink noise algorithms: http://www.firstpr.com.au/dsp/pink-noise/ It covers the topic from more angles than any single blogpost. Then at some point your page can become a collection of pages, like Bill Beaty's electricity stuff: http://amasci.com/miscon/whatis.html I think these are some of the most valuable things on the internet.

I love these types of pages. I know nothing about programming. Can you (or anyone reading this) suggest how I can go about making one? What's the bare minimum I'd need to learn to have essentially a single or a few pages with plain text, links, and photos on it, like the ones you posted? What terms should I search for to learn how to do this?

The bare minimum is to learn some HTML tags (the main ones are <a>, <p>, <img>, <h1>...<h6>), create a plain text file in Notepad and sprinkle it with these tags, save it as index.html, test it in a browser, then put it in a zip archive (along with other pages and images if you want) and upload at https://app.netlify.com/drop

> It seems that there has been a general trend towards a constant churning of output in order to keep up the dopamine hits for users.

my first thought when reading this was "yeah, that's because users don't know how to RSS". it's not that i know how to RSS that well, but i do have friends who use RSS in the style of masters. my favorite strategy that i have heard of, and what i will try to replicate in a few months, is: rss subscription >> local mail service >> inbound mail folders filled with articles from my RSS feed.

i've been practicing my own ability to use "the computer" in a way that makes me feel like a master... and we'll see if i ever get there. surely though, we are all missing out on the oldschool internet that was swallowed by the walled gardens.

but it seems that we're headed for a renaissance

I've been steadily plugging away at a semi-regular schedule (I post when I hit a milestone, but that can vary in time itself) on my writing blog. I post all my short stories there, as well as progress on the novel I'm writing. I know no one here really cares about non-tech stuff (I'm a tech guy, but I've sort of gotten more interested in philosophy and writing lately — all I used to care about was tech, so I get it), but shameless plug: https://indifferentuniverse.christopherdumas.org/?m=1.

I've only been doing it for less than a year, so I haven't reached the stuff you're talking about. I haven't even really branched out into talking about general topics yet, but I plan to soon. I'm just slowly feeling my way around, seeing what I can do and what I have time for and whatever. I don't get (m)any views that aren't myself yet though, lol.

There is a good advice for writers (bloggers are essentially writers) - write only if you can't NOT write. If you write because you can't not write, then you don't care about the number of readers.

Reminds me of this piece by Charles Bukowski: https://poets.org/poem/so-you-want-be-writer

Blogs haven't gone anywhere, now they're just "posts" on major platforms.

That's what people chose, because it's easier. They gave up content rights and many, many possibilities for the ease of posting and the near instant views and feedback.

I was thinking about this the other day - trying to come up with an idea for a way to aggregate or recommend blogs to people based on what they'd previously enjoyed or the topics they were interested in. It took me several minutes to realize I was mentally describing Medium to myself.

Still, something doesn't feel quite right about Medium to me.

I missed the Medium boat and just looked into it for the first time maybe 6 months ago.

From a reader’s perspective, the content just seems repetitive and traffic-driven. There is a certain sensationalist slant that must drive views, and the articles rapidly started to feel samey.

I’m still subscribed to it but I doubt I’ll renew.

Can we talk privately about this?

Talk privately about my thoughts on blog sharing and medium? Sure - provide an email address and I'll send you a "Hello".

It's not just the "major platforms."

I have a blog which I've maintained for a long time and continue to publish on. But for a lot of the material I write on a day to day basis, I can publish at online pubs/sites where I have editorial support, an established audience, and promotional machinery. I'm not limited--I can always publish by myself--but for many of the things I write about I might as well choose an existing publication.

> Then, nothing. You'll check the analytics. Abysmal. Nobody is reading!

Open source software development can be like this as well. Most of my projects ended up being useful to me alone. I started some just to see if some fundamental idea was possible: lost all motivation to actually finish the project once I proved to myself that it was.

I contributed some features to an existing project and they got a lot more attention. Interacting with fellow developers and users is a great experience. Made me care a lot more about the end result and whether it got merged.

Perhaps a personal wiki would be better than a blog. As long as the articles are useful to their writers, they should have enough motivation to keep writing.

I have some blogs that played the long game, and I must say the years thing is a fantasy for most that will likely not be realized. Sure it's fine to do like art that could get popular after you die, or you could be found as an unknown amazing author on day..

However things with the publishing and PR industry are such that I think it would be best to get some eyeballs and feedback before you spend years writing hoping to get discovered, much like launching a product or service too late after spending too much time in pre-production.

Sadly I think it's multiple changes in google that killed blogs over the years and I don't see blogs coming back into the top search results (or blog link rolls not being penalties that scare people into never using them) and changing things.

I love blogs, and blogging - but I must admit that more success is found by tweeting or even making a meme that is shared. If you can't hope for google to give you results and never know if fbook is going to block your blog, then I don't suggest people put eggs in that basket - unless there is another side reason for doing so, like your posts are auto-added to instagram or something somehow.

Maybe if you're only doing it for fame and fortune and PR and success. But trying to do that without actually having anything interesting to get famous and successful about was always just a con-man's game.

Real blogging is about sharing your thoughts and ideas on whatever niche topic interests you with people who have the same interests, and the conversations that arise out of that. Like the friendships that form from participating in BBSes and forums over the years, the value is in the fun you have and the interesting discussions and bouncing ideas off others' viewpoints. It doesn't need to be a business to be fulfilling.

I have run my blog on joelx.com for 14 years and have thousands of posts. Very few people actually read them, but it's nice to have a history my kids could one day read.

> It looks like this is the author's fourth post and s/he hit a home run with the top post on HN.

Think this is NOT his fourth post. It may be a new front end: Check out the other blogs: http://tttthis.coolstuffinterestingstuffnews.com

What is this bizarre URL?

Their site is http://tttthis.com

I remember it because I sometimes try to find it. I quite liked a post of theirs called "Remember websites" or something to that effect.

I've been blogging on and off for the past few years now (not going to publish the link here in case it is seen as self promotion). Mainly as a way of leaving my life story and thoughts for my family to have something to remember my life when I am no longer around (My dad had some incredible life stories, and I wish we had recorded them in some form before he passed).

I think what is missing now is the rich set of tools around the ecosystem. Posterous was a great service to let you email your thoughts directly to a blog post. I am amazed there was no other competitor that sprung up when they got bought out and shut down by Twitter nearly a decade ago.

I really miss Google Reader, which was where I used to keep a curated list of the top blogs I used to read regularly. Even now, some mornings I wish I could just open my Google Reader home page and check out the latest updates from some of my favourite bloggers.

https://feedly.com/ is a good free alternative. I too miss Reader and my experience with that and Google+ made me extremely wary of Google, I frequently back up my data in case they decide to abandon Google Docs or Google Photos or who knows what else.

I gave my father a journal for the entire family to share, pass around, and make notes in when he turned 50. With the idea if our grandfather had used such a tool how cool it would be.

It’s hard getting the ideas down, but having lived long enough to lost a few email accounts from My childhood, and other such content.

When you want to preserve for future generations I think there’s really something to be said for paper. I think Nassim Taleb had ideas about papers longevity too, the longer a technology had been around the longer it will likely stay around. As in email will likely outside Facebook simply because it’s already been around longer.

Posterous: I just launched https://flipso.com — Does more or less the same.

Is there a sample post that we can see?

https://flipso.com/p/dBrEHmXHXEpWpqdYpn2L [Still rough but you get the idea]

Inoreader is better than Google Reader was.

You might want to check it out.


Google Reader was free. I can't afford 50 usd/yr just to read RSS feeds (yes, there's a free plan, but it's limited and at that point I'd rather stick with RSSOwl or similar -free- tools).

Fair enough. I had the free plan for ages and really only changed to the paid one so they would get something after I'd used it for years.

Edit : Their free tier has 150 RSS subs allowed. So it's pretty reasonably. I have the middle tier for $US 20 a year that sets that to 500 subs.

Also, I have no interest in the company financially, just very pleased that there is a better than Google Reader replacement.

This site is centred on Silicon Valley venture capital culture, self promotion is strictly de rigeur around here :-).

I once wrote up something that interested me at the moment and figured I'll post it on medium so people get to actually read it.

To my surprise, medium doesn't let you publish (write yes, not publish) anything, unless you jump through several obscure loops like "engaging with the platform for a while".

My article wasn't particularly important, so I am not too heartbroken about it. But what this tells me is that there seems to be a lot of demand for publishing posts of different nature.

I feel that rather than blogging, more people should write comments. I’ve never written one blog article, but I’ve written a novel worth of comments over the years. A comment IMO is more pure and true, and is created out of a strong desire to say something, rather than for some other extrinsic motivation.

My problem with blogging is that I can’t just write in a vacuum, I must always write in response to something and when I have something worth responding too I can write more usefully.

You can just blog a comment. Read something that moves your mind longer than the first barfed out comment? Blog it. Write down your thought process, discuss with yourself, do something thoughtful witout the stress of a public discussion.

This is essentially what Daring Fireball [1] is, and it's one of the biggest blogs out there.

[1]: https://daringfireball.net/

One reason I still visit jwz's blog[0]. Comments are usually thought-provoking and creative and sometimes even Brendan Eich shows up.


As someone who writes a lot of comments but also now blogs a bit: blog posts for me are just long, thought out comments; often they’re an amalgamation of comments I might have left, or little bits on a topic that I keep around but have never had a place to write as a comment so I put them all together into one big one and polish it.

I agree with a lot of this. Writing for yourself is the best advice: if you write about things that interest you, maybe people with similar interests will read your blog. Also, your own understanding of the subjects you write about will grow.

I've been blogging for eight years now, and it has been very rewarding. It's great to get readers, and it is great to end up on the front page of Hacker News. But it is also really good to have a blog to point people to when you look for a job.

One thing that is still true is how much work it is to write even a short blog post. It still takes me hours of concentrated work. But I am still doing it, becuase the value outweighs the cost.

More on my blogging here: https://henrikwarne.com/2017/11/26/6-years-of-thoughts-on-pr...

> Then, nothing. You'll check the analytics. Abysmal. Nobody is reading!

> After all, how can you justify more time spent on something that doesn't pay back?

If you think that the value of your writing is measured by the attention it attracts, you are set for a really rough and sad career as a writer.

That is true even for entertainment videos on Youtube. Some people have the delusion it's effortless. PewDiePie said he was for at least 2 years posting videos for ~100 followers and a regular ~1mil views/video youtuber often spends ~12 hours for editing a 5 minute video.

> It looks like this is the author's fourth post and s/he hit a home run with the top post on HN.

> But that's rarely how things work.

Totally agree. I've written a fair bit about blogging, but when I started a new blog aimed at helping new developers, for the first month I wrote more posts than I had visitors (!): https://letterstoanewdeveloper.com/2019/10/14/how-to-start-b...

I think that six months is enough time to commit. At the end of that period you'll either have the bug and want to keep blogging or know the format is not for you.

I honestly got a lot more traffic on my blogs than I thought. Mostly from Google. Writing clear answers to things I’ve ran into during my daily work seems to work pretty well

Exactly. As a 20 years blogger, I would say I wish people posted more blog posts than shitty tuits. But Twitter format made possible distribute the message better than the blogs. Back then, we used RSS aggregators and other things, nowadays its kinda rare. I still visit blogs and i still post on my own blog, though i do it everytime i need to do a longer explanation post.

The way to immortality is to write.

YES! I will forever be a third-rate Game Boy enthusiast writer. FOREVER !

Lmao.. Literally the only time I've gotten a flood of emails was from when I described my experience applying to a FAANG company. Quite sad actually, as I'd been shouting into the void about far more interesting things for years.

You really don’t get to pick, sadly.

Thanks for the wonderfully insightful comment. I need to save this so I can periodically look at it for motivation!

this is true, though with the assumption of blogging as it is in today's world where it is lonely and only a search engine can find you. if blogging was done inside a supportive community and network it could be less lonely and you could get frequent feedback and interactions.

If I was to make an analogy using your perspective on blogging with facebook or instagram - you post about yourself or post personal photos for a long time. It is futile, for a long long time, nobody sees your content... you post photos for years, and you realize it changes you. You will notice patterns, you will get better at posting photos ...

I am exaggerating to make a point and it is this, you may find yourself needing to perfect your content strategy(blog, photos or facebook-style posts) for years and the main reason it doesn't pay back is there is no network or community anymore. You shouldn't have to be a pro to get noticed.

People tried decentralized networks and that didn't work so well, because one - you need modern blogging software (newsfeed, real time comments, spam moderation, good recommendation algorithms) and it has to be managed by a centralized authority that offers a great user experience. Today, closest thing to this is facebook and twitter (and instagram). All in all you must have these for a great blogging experience: first, good software and central authority, then network. It must be focused on serving authentic bloggers, and it must be backed by a commercial solution.

That in turn means, a paid service, whose customers are bloggers. That means, how badly do you want an amazing blogging experience, where you blog with great writing tools, search, discover, and interact with others (and probably in today's world, be able to hop on a video chat with your viewers and share that in comments). Yes, so how much do you desire to have it, would you pay $5/month? $30/month? $100/month? It comes down to this.

If there was monetary backing, this problem could be solved with a 'solution'. Chances are that not enough many people want it, and people are content with free posting on instagram, twitter, or facebook, and happy to live with ads. If this was a high demand service, chances are that it would have already been built, or existing ones would already be prospering (tumblr didn't make money and got acquired, blogger shut down, medium serving writers looking to make money, recreational blogging is not their target and so on). So is this a real problem to solve or not?

Maybe people don't know they want it and aren't organized enough to support it, - if you built an amazing experience maybe lots of bloggers will pay for it, then it will become another, facebook where the network is funded by its users.

You appear to be describing Medium in the latter half of your post, which seems to have gone through multiple business models at this point.

As for a network and aggregation, back in the day there were decentralized solutions. We had RSS and pingbacks and Google News, which in the early days was largely a blog search engine. There were things like Reddit and StumbleUpon for finding new blogs, in addition to slashdot and Hacker News. Many of these sites have changed in terms of content since then, but originally a lot of what they linked to was blogs.

Thanks for the comment - Medium is aiming to help writers to monetize (IMO its not working) and not serving recreational bloggers. Yes there were all these mechanisms to find and interact with blogs. But don't you think they can be modernized, and centralized? RSS works, but how many people can use RSS? They just want to press a follow button.

I disagree, I had 100,000 uniques on my third blog post. Of course, there was less Internet in 2005.

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