I used to blog extensively, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about this. The content I would write was loosely for marketing purposes, but I put a lot of effort into generating high quality content that I would genuinely enjoy reading myself. An article that I spent 50+ hours on and felt very proud of might have a 30% chance of reaching the front page of Hacker News. A fluffy post with a decent title that I spent only an hour or two on would still have a 10-15% chance of front paging. The way the math works out, it's simply much lower ROI to generate quality content. It's also a bit heartbreaking to invest a lot of time making something for other people to enjoy only for nobody to ever see it.
The second chance queue on Hacker News is a major step in the right direction, and I'm grateful for all the times where my posts were given another chance. A lot of great content still slips through the cracks however, and relatively small actions by community members would go a long way towards helping incentives align towards generating quality content.
Anyway, the podcaster went dark for a week and then posted something about hiatus. I sent him a "thanks for the content, I'll be here when you get back" type message.
A week or two later an episode went online. He explained that he has periodic depression issues, read out my message and explained how it made him feel better. He'd been dwelling on "everyone knows and thinks I'm an idiot" thoughts that come with the territory. Just a friendly thanks (to someone providing me a show for free) meant something to him in that moment.
Since then I try make a point of little things like that, especially to little guys.
Let them know you enjoy a blog, if you do. Thank them. Be friendly. We all need encouragement, and I now feel that we also owe it.
And I definitely agree on the promotion too.
It's fun to email an author when I really like their book with a short message that I enjoyed it. I do the same for little open source projects too.
Usually you get a small response back - I think it's one of the best things about the internet.
A subreddit could be the place for this, but it might be tricky to kickstart a community with interesting content. Then if successful could move it to its own community somehow (similar to CMV).
I created one here: https://www.reddit.com/r/hnblogs/
There might be a way to set up rules that lead to interesting posts, if the content is restricted to bloggers posting their own content it could get more attention than competing for space on HN (as long as there are people there to comment).
Happy to open up wiki editing or make suggested changes. [Edit]: I made an announcement post there for suggestions.
Also if you have a personal blog and a favorite post - you can be the first one to submit something, though I might be the only one that ends up reading it :-). [Edit: Anyone reading this please do! There are a decent amount of people clicking the above link so it'd be neat if there were posts that got some traction).
It almost feels like needing to revert to the pre-search engine era when there were pages of curated links to interesting content.
One issue with HN is since it's general links of interesting content it can be hard for personal blogs to compete, maybe a focused community could make it easier.
Someone posted a first blog post, I added one too.
I too miss the days of curated links on personal sites. Occasionally, I'll find a gem consisting of a simple, yet captivating personal sites with links to additional interesting information. The sites almost always appear to have been up for a decade or two, showing they came from those golden days.
If your new subreddit takes off, which I hope it does, it would be cool to start building an organized and curated list of blogs and individual posts on the wiki.
I've added some guidelines to the sidebar and others have contributed some of their own blog posts, thanks!
Personally I was sad when my tiny python chess engine Sunfish  didn't make it past the two-three upvotes stage. However about half a year later somebody else submitted it and it got a lot of traction.
I wonder how accepted it is to resubmit the same, or a version of, your project or blog post, to try your luck again.
Personally, I’d prefer if someone reposted a good blog post or project rather than trying to develop new things just to have the ability to post something.
Anyway after cutting and pasting bits of code into Google I finally turned up the github page. You should put some (basic) info into each file you've got there.
Anyway Sunfish is cool, thanks.
Which mailing lists? I subscribe to some dev stuff (LKML, etc.) and various OSS lists, but the rest, the ones I see referred to here and elsewhere, typically started by some no-code-wanna-be-entrepreneur trying to monetize and turn mailing lists into a business. Garbage. They are no different from the SEO-optimized ad farm websites polluting the web.
> Post new or old content on Hacker News, Reddit, Lobsters, Twitter,
Are you joking? Reddit and Twitter are the embodiment of almost everything wrong with the modern web. This is not where you look for quality content.
Sage was great on firefox (for me, at least) for a long time, but got abandoned, I have found "drop feeds" to be a good replacement.
I have an instance I host myself that I'm happy to create accounts on if you want to try before you host yourself.
And even into the early 2010s, Tumblr was still a thriving community that paid host to many different different subcultures and demographics (whereas today, Tumblr is largely fandom).
But now? The spammers helped murder the pingback/trackback -- RSS is still alive but it is often hidden and isn't even always a default for various static site blogging engines -- not to mention the lengths web browsers go to to deny that RSS even exists -- and the art of finding quality like-minded blogs of any size, is incredibly difficult.
Google had a blog search part of its search engine but shut that down nearly a decade ago. (Frankly, the fact that Google keeps Blogger running is sort of amazing, although I would be shocked if more than one or two full time employees worked on it -- I have to assume all the maintenance is done by vendors and contractors.)
Moreover, we've moved our communications to silos that don't allow for easy syndication (you haven't been able to auto-publish your blog/website to Facebook for years, for instance) or to formats (video), that are reliant on major giants (YouTube, Twitch, and to a lesser but growing extent, TikTok) rather than a user's own platform -- and that require a much higher barrier to entry for creators than blogging ever did. Way more people consumed blog content than ever regularly made their own blog -- but now it's even greater.
But beyond the various platform silos and the move away from decentralized to closed social network behemoths, blogging also never properly embraced mobile. The act of blogging on mobile was too difficult for too long (Tumblr being the one exception), while Facebook and Twitter were quick to become mobile-first (and in Twitter's case, was originally designed for mobile).
Blogging isn't dead but the curation and discovery tools that made it really take off in the 2000s is.
As someone who owes their entire career to blogging, this makes me sad. But it is what it is.
Spammers are such superb agents of Internet centralisation. It seems both decentralised mail and content netizens have little choice but to seek shelter with large service providers as a defence from the trash on the net.
I’m not saying the large players have a hand in spam, but they certainly aren’t being harmed by it in the same proportion as the individual hosting their own blog or smtp server.
I think this is very close to the heart of why decentralization hasn't worked (yet?)
Try to design a decentralized system that is resistant to abuse, and really think through the loopholes as an attacker would.
It's very difficult.
Decentralization is little villages. Little villages are weak and they gain strength against their common enemies as they band together.
So there's a natural force toward centralization that isn't countered by anything but a lot of slogging through the engineering challenges of trying to make decentralization work.
Email spam is the obvious one. Algorithmically promoted conspiracy crap was the less obvious less predictable one that bit YouTube and other services and is much harder to police because it turns out the police are also just as biased and dumb as the people they're trying to police, just in different ways.
Someday the Internet will be filled with programs flooding the Internet with increasingly sophisticated malformed information, and at some point it will probably devolve into an arms race of these programs trying to con the other programs. I think Anathem had a passage in there about this, "insanity programs" or something to that effect, can't really remember, but until that day, you'll have to actually pay people to disseminate your own carefully crafted propaganda instead.
Centralized services provide the illusion of safety against this in much the same way urban landscapes do, but there's no substitute to taking responsibility for your own safety, your own hygiene, and your own bullshit.
We've been there for a while now:
Basically have a small cost to creating an identity in the network to prevent spam. The system is peer-to-peer where each user has their own 'server' on their local machine which interacts directly with the server's of other users.
It's a pretty neat idea, they recently released their first version.
All the stuff you said is true. Spammers did sort of win, at least against the more open media structures. Video did represent a hosting hurdle. On RSS, I feel that it failed^ moreso than it got murdered. That one was quite a blow, considering that (a) I still think it could have succeed, somehow and (b) the tremendous "free internet" value of a success case.
Money isn't everything when it comes to gaining people's attention. What's good counts for a lot. There were a lot of factors to the way things played out.
The financial difference between now and about the time Facebook demonstrably took over MySpace would a douglas adams to describe it. It accounts for a lot.
I wonder if a wikipedia would be possible today, if somehow a good web encyclopedia didn't exist. I suspect that it wouldn't be. Obviously, the interest and capacity to subvert would be (and is) huge. Possibly enough to prevent a solid start. But, financial realities are also a factor. Wikipedia would probably be a highly funded startup, and the incentives would be totally different.
^Notable exception: podcasts. Also the reason why I think it had (has?) massive potential.
Self-hosted blogging had passed on the format of ad-hoc notes while on the move, and basically ignored the entire category of mobile content creation.
It’s odd and sad to see that the desktop-first authoring trend is actually getting re-enforced these days in indie blogging community, as the tools are getting less and less mobile-friendly (another git-driven file-based Markdown static site generator, anyone?)
"Blog" originally stood for "web log", and as such didn't put any constraints or expectations on the media format, length, or quality. At some point format-specific platforms came in, artificially fragmented self-publishing into "microblogging", "photoblogging", "videoblogging", and took it over.
Not everything has to be a well written article, but blogging relinquished "just thinking out loud" type of publishing to mobile-first social networking walled gardens, and it's a real shame and a loss.
Shift to mobile is a massive contributor. Many newcomers to the internet are mobile first, and either don't have permanent access to desktop computers at all, or just couldn't be bothered.
And I don't see many blogging platforms that take this audience seriously. Wordpress seems to be the only one that has a mobile app at all.
Tumblr has a great mobile app — as I said in my initial post, it was actually on top of the mobile trend — but none of the other blogging platforms do. They assume a response web page will work and it won’t — or that you’ll be creating a new file and kicking of a CI/CD build pipeline for a static site — which still doesn’t help if you just want to write an update or post a photo from your phone.
Even easy web builders like Squarespace and Wix and the like have, frankly, subpar mobile options.
You can’t blame people for just deciding to use Facebook or Instagram.
But I agree that Tumblr remains a gem. I’m glad Automattic bought it and agreed to continue to support its staff and development.
One thing you'll note is that those are all filled with a shit fuck ton of ads and are completely unusable.
I know this because my wife wades through that stuff and the only way she can is by using a blocker. I don't use a blocker because very few of the software specific websites I visit have ads (generally).
Recipe blogs are the worst - here's a sample from pinch of yum:
There are actual cooking and baking blogs of the quality you see in software where professionals or hobbyists talk about their craft but they won't show up on Google with terms like "$food_name recipe" and it doesn't really make sense for them to. Cooking blogs are for cooking nerds -- people who have notebooks and scrap books full of recipe clippings from old magazines and cake boxes and a shelf of random dog-eared culinary textbooks and recipe anthologies that could knock a person out if you got hit with them. These blogs are full of crappy unflattering photography, zero web design skills, okay-ish writing, and cult-like followings.
Tiny Urban Kitchen
A lot depends on your food and style preferences.
I only checked two of these, Food52 and Serious Eats, these are businesses, not personal, quirky blogs. I am 100% sure that these are not the kind author of "If I could bring one thing back to the internet it would be blogs" miss. And if the author of "Blogging Is Not Dead," think so, he too, has misunderstood.
I guess many, especially the younger crowd, is now just so inundated by these types of websites that they have no idea what we are talking about.
The /r/woodworking subreddit used to have a strict "no blogs" rule that finally got relaxed to just be more "no blog spam".
I noticed similar problems in Pinterest, where you'll find pins that have beautiful images but lead to spam garbage. So, there might have been a page that was initially hosting the image (probably copied from somewhere else), but then, it gets swapped out with an advertising garbage site. And the pin goes up in popularity because most users just don't care about the backing site.
The wider the potential audience, the bigger the potential for spam. And it sure doesn't seem like there's a great, consistent way to filter spam. Search engines do not appear to have kept pace since the rise of walled garden social networks.
At this point, I would pay for curated, interesting updates. It's just hard to see how a product like that would easy to find these days.
People say they miss blogs of yesteryear (like in the HN submission in TFA) as if they don't still exist. And then people hold up made-for-ads spamsites, like you, and go "see? blogs are dead!"
Why not use the same standard of yesteryear and find some good blogs.
My thoughts on this topic is that everyone who says they miss blogs just stopped looking for them. Our internet usage patterns have changed. Blogs still exist but we just stay in our Reddit/HN bubble and assume it's just wasteland outside of it. It's a silly mistake and something you see HNers condescendingly accusing the masses of, thinking the internet=Facebook.
I agree, but I also... don’t really know how to look for them anymore? Which I know sounds silly. Thinking back to some of my favorite blogs that I read in the early 2000s I found them via IRL word of mouth, Asking Jeeves random stuff, links from message boards, and interesting bloggers commenting on blogs I read.
Other than HN and some niche subreddits I guess I don’t really know how to find cool/unique content on the internet that someone hasn’t paid for me to stumble across. I periodically ask interesting people here if they have a blog but the answer is usually no. Maybe hnblogs.ycombinator.com is in the five year plan? As soon as someone figures out how to clone dang...
It will be a slow start, because the more interesting and personal blogs don't update daily. It takes time to write a good article and the good ones also wait until they have something interesting to write an article about. But over a couple of months, I already have over 70 feeds in there and now opening the reader to see what is new is a fun activity.
Pro-tip: it is hidden well, but one can also follow Youtube users and channels with RSS and avoid the spammy front page.
I guess it's semantics but I've never considered recipe "blogs" as anything near like rachelbythebay or other plain programming blogs.
Blogs are websites that host posts in chronological order, but defined in a very specific way that excludes your Facebook and Twitter. The difference isn't self-hosting - Blogger and Wordpress.com host your blog. I reckon the difference is aggregation. Facebook groups your posts with posts from everyone else. They get to curate individual feeds. People with money get to bypass the curation a little.
Don't get me wrong, I have my own blog (link in profile) and I deleted my Facebook account years ago. But quite honestly, the format is less usable than having centralized aggregators that float the most popular content to the top. This is why we're all on Hacker News, right? The act of having the aggregator allows extra features to be overlayed, like community discussion. Are aggregators the "best" format by every metric? No, but it allows me to read content I like without doing a lot of work, so here I am.
There are places in Facebook where longer form writing is possible, but the system still doesn't really encourage it.
Now it's sadly the case a lot of blogs don't have a lot of content, are full of SEO boilerplate, with click-bait headlines instead of being interesting or well written. Some blogs are great, well-written lead ins that end with "to get the end of this story, contact our sales person for a demo!". Or there's the form that pops up that really, really wants your email address for a GREAT newsletter!
I think when a company has a 'blog' it really needs to fulfill a contract of actually providing useful, interesting content. It's the only way, honestly, your brand will build long term trust. Otherwise don't call it a 'blog' call it 'marketing information' or something...
I don't think I've ever been confused between the two, despite them both being called blogs.
It's pretty obvious that a personal blog is one thing, and a company blog is another. They're both "weblogs", neither has a greater right to the name.
The old bloggers all just moved on. Or at least the vast majority of them did. The number of terrible blogs are legion.
Everyone has a motivation for the things they do, and a lot of the time the motivation for a blog is professional credibility/development, and for the self-employed, more directly in "leads" and good business.
Neither works out. After your dozen-th time on the front-page of HN you realize it works the same as always -- a lot of passing, casual readers who might find the content exemplary but...eh. There was a time when those people would become regulars because you showed that you make good content, but it's just unnecessary now. Just watch HN and Reddit and if they make something good again, maybe it'll appear there.
Did they? Or do they just make up a decreasing fraction of blogs? I've got 95 blogs in my feed reader. My guess is that I've been subscribed to most of them for more than five years, but still about 80% of them posted within the last year (an arbitrary cut-off point, but I don't think it's fair to call something dead if it only ever showed signs of life a couple times a year in its prime).
Actually, you won't see much content if the creators don't get paid.
So the problem is how to get money to them.
Patreon is still one of the very few success stories here, depositing over 90% of contributions directly to creators.
This is definitely not true. There are plenty of people who like to share their work without any monetary reward (be it either direct or indirect, building their personal 'brand' etc.), but who do it just for the fun of sharing and communicating with each other.
The extreme focus on startups, earning money with your special thing, etc. that is common here is not representative for the whole world. There are plenty of people who can do without that. At least, it used to be that way. I'll admit that this 'get rich online' culture that is prevalent here is spreading more and more to the rest of society.
Yes, use an RSS Reader. RSS is not dead. Hackernews often has blog posts. If you see a post you like, go to the main page and see if you like any of the other posts. If it's a blog you think you want to follow, subscribe to it. If, after a few months, you find none of the articles are interesting and often mark them all read, then just unsubscribe.
If you blog, cross-promote it on Reddit, Twitter, your FB page (although if you don't use Twitter/FB often, it'll be just a trickle of clicks, but it's better than nothing), etc. Try not to use another platforms just to promote you. If you see blog posts you like, be sure to promote them!
Maybe use one of your RSS reader apps just to dump one of those huge github aggregated blog lists with like 500 tech and personal blogs. You can scroll through it when you're bored and see if there's anything interesting and mark the rest as read.
Maybe setup your own Solr server to index every blog you come across just for the hell of it? (I've been meaning to do this forever!) The big search engines aren't good at showing us blogs, so maybe it's up to us to find and promote them?
Back then, there was a huge community around blogs. That community has moved to Twitter and other places. Previously, people would comment on blogs and if you are a frequent reader of a blog, you would recognize a lot of people who comment there and you may even become friends with them. Constructive comments have moved away from the blogs and are now on Twitter, Hacker News, Reddit etc.
There used to be services specifically around the blogging space, like Technorati (and even StumbleUpon to an extent).
I also feel, and this might just be me, people have started associating purpose with mediums. If you want to post silly or just casual stuff, you post it on Twitter. If you have something really valuable and on brand, you post it on your blog. People used to post everything to their blogs because that's where they could previously share their thoughts.
The reason some people think blogging is dead is because the blog "signal" is much, much quieter than the social media "noise." It's a question of comparative volume.
Comments are everywhere. Total volume of comments on the internet compared to blogs is larger by several orders of magnitude. Readership is up, everything has comments. Comments don't care about SEO, or money, or fame, that makes them one of the purest forms of content you can find on the internet. You could argue that some sites have people commenting for fame because of karma systems, but ultimately that karma means nothing. Very few comments have ever "gone viral" the way a blog or youtube or tiktok video tries so hard to. Comments are like graffiti; ephemeral, and meant to be enjoyed in the moment you stumble across them. Very few comments make any kind of money for their author the way a blog does.
Marketing firms have not latched onto comments yet the way they latch onto blogs. But when they do, it's over.
What does "a decent buck" amount to, these days? How much does it take to get people to sell their reputation to an unethical marketing firm?
Not a lot for Westerners, but that is a week of wages in a place like Ghana. Decent pay for re-posting popular content.
Pretty much whenever you see a blog you can bet it's being monetized somehow or used for some financial gain.
When you see a comment, it's unlikely there is any motive behind it beyond expressing an idea.
Now imagine the world where every comment is also some kind of ad or invitation to buy or subscribe to something. Hell.
I haven't read or seen any studies. I'm really curious what percentage of the average reddit thread's comments are from companies, nation states, and paid for power users.
> Now imagine the world where every comment is also some kind of ad or invitation to buy or subscribe to something. Hell.
That would be product reviews!
When we start seeing the proliferation of boutique networks (with satellite and CBRS bands), I think forums, blogs, BBS`s and the real Internet gold (comments, as you stated) will find a new canvas to graffiti.
Now that everything is under attack on Internet 1, its the perfect time to take the 1% of valuable content and setup shop elsewhere, leaving the "ephemeral" content behind (they`ll make more).
Perhaps its a western culture thing, but the easiest way to move a mountain of digital/analog fecal matter is to walk away from it.
My informal research  shows approximately zero adoption of webmention. For 44 blog posts I have written in the past two years, I did not have a single external link to a host that would support it.
It's unfortunate that the author linked to the Wikipedia page instead of the Webmention page on IndieWeb wiki, which I'd argue is the canonical point of reference, since it has a lot more information and various examples.
It's arguably a niche feature used by a niche community, but it doesn't have to stay that way! Adding Webmention support to your website is actually quite easy since there are free hosted services that let you receive Webmentions to any URL on your (static) site without having to run any code yourself.
That's also something I should repeat. As someone involved in an active blog engine project for many years now, webmentions annoyed me. They seemingly ignored that trackbacks existed and had already solved the issues webmentions now solve again. They should have been compatible, an extension ideally, but they are not. The project was not even interested enough to host a trackback/webmention converter, which would have given them an enormous adoption boost. Signals to me a complete disinterest of the "indie web" to integrate with the actually already existing independent and open web. I don't get it, it's a shame.
You're right in the sense that it's a classic case of <insert XKCD standards comic here>, but FYI there is a pingback to Webmention converter now.
It's great that the pingback conversion exists now, one issue less :)
These days, whether it be blogs or social media, the end goal is becoming less about saying something worthwhile and more about building and maintaining some kind of personal brand. So while I'll continue being another worthless face in the crowd, consuming content, I also won't mourn the death of blogging or any other similar forms.
We all know too much about one another these days. It doesn't seem to matter to whom we address our writing. There is something to writing for yourself, writing offline, writing as a means of forming a private life and a private consciousness. And what about writing for the experience of writing itself? Forget publishing.
Ours is a society that says so little about nearly everything, and most commentary on the web today isn't worth reading. Furthermore, all content is ephemeral, people share gentle opinions instead of strong convictions because it is safer for one's public reputation, nobody is good at or cares about typography, self-editing is not a skill that people have, and you can never tell where the delusional self-promotion ends and the truthful personal expression begins.
We have become so sensitive to other people's personalities, accomplishments, productivity habits, recommendations, and advice for life. To what end? I don't know. Reading blogs is not my idea of quality time.
And that creates an interesting problem that is still waiting for a solution.
I suspect this makes me selfish, but I like it like this. It is fun finding out of the way blogs and being part of a tiny audience following an interesting but rarely discussed topic.
edit: But what I'm trying to get at is, no, at least here - blogs are not dead and forgotten / some esoteric channel for the very few.
I've been kicking around an idea about manually associating blogs to twitter accounts, and then using twitter follows to create a graph for discovery purposes.
I think the best thing to do is to return to manual link referals. There are plenty of bloggers who will link to other blogs throughout their articles, or post articles with explicit lists of blogs they like. Good, interesting, blogs will rise to the top by being linked a lot.
Nice random nugget:
> This isn’t a situation where you should look to the masses for guidance. When you see idiotic behavior, don’t let the fact that everyone else seems fine with it persuade you that it’s probably okay. Stupid behavior that’s popular is still stupid. A bar full of idiots taking reassuring cues from each other is still a bar full of idiots.
The currency we have right now on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook is reputation. There, it's in the form of Followers. That's the very currency that Stack Overflow uses to grow and sustain.
It's "gamified". And the blogosphere needs that, too.
And in a way, blogs have that, but it's in the form of Reddit and HN and some other sites, where people get their karma fix by taking the time to read the blog post (upfront time investment), comment on it (risk losing karma), then get their comment being liked (return on investment), which augment their karma.
(Facebook does not have a Karma system like Reddit or HN has. But if it would, it would make the world a bit more like a certain black mirror episode of season 2.)
Why do you see coders put their reddit+HN profile links on their site? Because they want their reputation/karma/notoriety to follow them in real-life context, so it can be converted as real "notoriety currency". (people looking at their profile will say Gosh, this guy has 2000 points on SO and 4000 points on HN, he must be very smart or influent!).
So my guess is that the reason blogs still exist is because of sites like Reddit, HN, where people can get reputation (and not only knowledge) out of their reading. There's also something satisfying in the act of praising a good post with your friends. It's like watching a good movie and talking about how good it is with your friends.
And blogs also survived because that still being viewed as THE most professional was of expressing one's opinions. It gives you gravitas by default when you have your own blog, compared to having a Twitter / Facebook account like the plebs.
And you get the best of both worlds when you promote your blog posts on social networks.
Maybe it's a developer specific culture?
Do you think its worth me creating a blog like this, hoping that one day I could build up an organic following and potentially monetise it?
I don't see any easy, scalable solutions to these problems but until they're solved open platforms will cater to niche audiences.
Bloggers should do more of that.
However, and I'm making an assumption here, it's not the blogs you're personally interested in.
I bought a synthesizer the other day (UNO Synth, relatively cheap (most electronic instruments are expensive I'm afraid :( )) and you quickly run into the music youtubers, just people at their own home or home studio that show you a product and fiddle with it. There is a LOT of content like that on youtube, in all genres.
It's just that they're not for everyone. I prefer reading a blog over watching a video about programming. I don't like having to listen to people (except if it's my adopted dad AvE), and I don't have the patience to sit through a half hour video.
But it's there. One channel that frequently features something that would be on HN is Tom Scott, who makes a wide range of relatively short / punchy videos about a subject, ranging from weird art installations in the middle of nowhere to the basics of computers and text compression. That is blog content, it's just that the presentation is different.
Not to mention, Reddit won't let you post blogs to their largest subreddits.