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Small B Blogging (2018) (tomcritchlow.com)
90 points by exolymph 3 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 26 comments



I used to blog. Many (9) years ago. I took a break (https://objology.blogspot.com/2012/05/stepping-out-of-balloo...). 9 years of polyglot-ism later, I've toyed with returning to some sort of small b blogging, just for the therapeutic nature of writing about what I learn and do.

But I'm honestly at a loss where to do it. I don't really want to do the hosted-for-monetization thing again (Medium, BlogSpot, etc). I've looked at GitHub Pages/Jekyll, all the cool kids seem to be doing that? It seemed kind of complicated and end-runny. And it wasn't clear how much control I'd have over my future that way?

What do other small b bloggers do now days to control their own destiny and keep things simple?


There is a really fantastic movement of people creating "digital gardens", collections of notes and ideas and posts that can be much less formal than a traditional blog. They're very fun to create, tinker with, and to explore. Check out mine here: https://mtsolitary.com as an example, or see this great curated list: https://github.com/MaggieAppleton/digital-gardeners.

There are some tools being created in this space but a lot of it is still roll-your-own. Github Pages and Jekyll (or even better, Hugo) is a good way to get started, there's plenty of simple tutorials that can get you a site up and running. And in terms of control over your future: everything in the end is just Markdown files that you can pick up and take with you wherever you go :)


I tried all the different static site generators, and I was annoyed with how everything was really complicated. I also came to the realization that I was never going to need a content management system with the amount of blogging I was doing, so I should stop overanalyzing the problem and just do the minimum thing that leads to more writing.

Then I decided to pretend I time-traveled back to the 90s - now I just write HTML, by hand, with a simple CSS style.

If CSS was any more complicated, I would've just written pure text in HTML and decorated things with ascii art.

You can host these trivially on GitHub, but back in the day I also used nearlyfreespeech.net to host my static websites. I don't know if they are still alive and kicking, but if so, would recommend.

I've also realized that among my professional contacts, people are starting to blog technical articles on LinkedIn. I think that's probably a decent way to go as well if you want discoverability.


> Then I decided to pretend I time-traveled back to the 90s - now I just write HTML, by hand, with a simple CSS style.

I wanted to, and would prefer to, do my website (which is mostly a blog for now) like this.

But I like having tags and categories for all my blog posts, and I don't like the tedium of doing _that_ by hand. I could write something to do that for me, but then I'd just end up with a static site generator anyway.

In the end I just settled with hugo since it can do everything I need for now.


> I've also realized that among my professional contacts, people are starting to blog technical articles on LinkedIn.

That's unexpected, wouldn't it be just drowned with self aggrandizing bs there?


I have a very oldschool "FTP webspace" with Ionos (from 1&1) - it's really just your run-of-the-mill static website hosting package, basically unchanged since the late nineties.

Well, it surely changed a lot under the hood from the provider's perspective, I assume, but from the user's perspective, it works as it has always worked: you have a domain, you have an (S)FTP account, you upload your static HTML/CSS files, et voilá, you have a homepage/blog.

I create my HTML/CSS locally using Hugo. The source for my homepage and its blog posts can be seen at https://github.com/manuelkiessling/manuel.kiessling.net.

Super simple, no headaches, no downtimes, really fast end user experience when browsing the resulting homepage. Less than 4 bucks per month.

I do depend on Ionos, of course, but as it's only HTML and CSS, it would work with every web site hosting solution on the planet.

I also depend on Hugo, of course, but Hugo is open source, and I've even stored the Hugo binaries for different platforms locally.

My homepage is at https://manuel.kiessling.net/.


> What do other small b bloggers do now days to control their own destiny and keep things simple?

Self-hosting!

Coincidentally, last week I decided that I shall update my self-hosted blog at least once a month (had written two posts over the course of five years).

So I grabbed the content, put it into Org mode files, stored in git, exported the html (also stored in git) and uploaded the result to my cheapie web-host.

http://www.lelanthran.com

I'm quite pleased with the result - I can easily move this at some point to my DO droplet, which will happen probably this year (sometime).

In the meantime, I'm just gonna write down my opinions of the world and call it a blog :-)


I relate to your point regarding using platforms like Medium. I ran into the same problem when I wanted to start my own blog. I thought there has to be a better way to do it, having a static blog that is fast, using modern tech, don’t have to worry about hosting and use your own domain.

This is why I created https://panakit.com.

Of course I am biased but I am trying to create a tool that solves all these problems and still gives you ownership.


Not really the case. You don't need to build a Jekyll blog from scratch. Really good and fully functional templates are floating around. Just fork something like Beautiful Jekyll or AcademicPages, and edit YAMLs, and .md's to get started. Really easy to do.

I recently started to look into Cloudflare Pages. Worth a look.


Meta: current title is “Small B Blogging”, correct title is “Small b blogging”.

(HN does some title editing, removing leading articles and numbers, autocapitalising, &c., for better or for worse, mostly for worse in my opinion; but you can go back and edit the submission to fix the title if it mangles it and it won’t change it again.)


> As Venkatesh says in the calculus of grit - release work often, reference your own thinking & rework the same ideas again and again. That’s the small b blogging model.

This is basically my M.O wrt blogging. Problem is that my stuff ends up being difficult to read because "technical terms" have been invented over the years.

Another problem I have is that I'm somewhat shy about plugging it on relevant Twitter threads, or even here. I don't want to be spammy.


Love this blog post, very easy to read and relatable I think to this network of people especially. I've had dreamy moments where I imagine blogging about my favorite hobbies and interests might actually make me enough money to quit my job. I do for the same reasons they advocate in this article, and I won't stop anytime soon because it brings me so much joy to run a platform where I can share my projects and opinions. I still feel disappointed that nothing's "happened", and I haven't taken off in a way that has enabled any kind of financial success. It's hard not to feel that way. I like very much the encouragement to feel proud of our b-blogs, and to be thankful for the opportunities that they do enable. Thanks!


Interesting take:

"Every community now has a fragmented number of communities, homepages, entry points, tinyletters, influencers and networks... Of course, the natural consequence of these fragmented audiences is that getting some traction with one or more of these smaller entry points is easier than it ever was."

Do people find this to be true?

As someone who sometimes blogs my impression is that there really aren't that many entry points. For a big topic like AI, there are still mainly HN and some big subreddits and that's about it. Newsletters and such exist, but how are you going to be highlighted on them if people aren't reading your stuff as is? Until you get some traction, reaching even 100s of readers is super non-trivial.

Also, this take is kind of weird:

"Too often I read things otherwise smart people have written for places like Fast Company and my eyes glaze over. ... Instead - I think most people would be better served by subscribing to small b blogging. What you want is something with YOUR personality. Writing and ideas that are addressable (i.e. you can find and link to them easily in the future) and archived (i.e. you have a list of things you’ve written all in one place rather than spread across publications and URLs) and memorable (i.e. has your own design, logo or style). Writing that can live and breathe in small networks. Scale be damned."

So, small b blogging is just blogging in the traditional sense of having a personal website you put your writing on?


That's what I got out of it. Small b blogging is more like the original weird Internet of the 90s. Much better IMO.


He seems to be arguing that there is less centralization and network effect driving hits to his blog than a decade ago. I think the reverse is true. People are more walled within their corporate gardens than ever before.

But that doesn't have to matter for "small b blogging" because getting hits isn't the point and there's no profit incentive driving things. Just post what you want and if people find it useful that's cool, but secondary.


Somewhat related on the topic of blogging. I've recently lost a lot of motivation to publish things on the web after I found that sites like Laptrinhx exist that fraudulently monetize on my content.

They blatantly copy all content, regardless of copyright and licensing, slap adverts on it and then add insult to injury by telling you "how they can't produce awesome content without ads" if you use an adblocker. They also seem to often rank higher on search engines than my own site.

Here's someone else that had the same experience:

https://www.dcac.com/blog/imitation-is-not-a-form-of-flatter...

Obviously they don't publish any contact details. They use Cloudflare, so you can't see where the server is hosted. Cloudflare won't do anything about it - they just forward your report, personal details and all, to the owner of the site. They use Feedly to get content, so you can't even block their crawler without screwing over legit subscribers on Feedly. The best I can do is block their referrer for hot-linked images.

In my 15 years of blogging there have always been people that were re-publishing my content. I'm okay with that - my blog is under the CC-Non Commercial license. I take it as a cost of having a blog that there will always be some people that will ignore the license terms. However Laptrinhx and similar sites seem to have taken this to an industrial scale. Now I feel like I'm just a cog lining someone else's pockets for free.


This explains why people give up blogging in favor of Youtube, there is no point stealing video from YT and putting it elsewhere as it will not get any traction and YT seems to be pretty well in protecting content.

I am wondering if similar model would not work for blogs. It does not have to even be a blogging platform, but just a service, bloggers pays X and if content gets stolen, people behind service are taking action (suing, trying to block domain, remove it from search results in major search engines, etc.). No idea if bloggers would pay for this and such service would be able to survive.


This blog is very relatable and I really like the idea of Small b blogging for smaller audiences.

I recently started my first own blog as a software developer and I decided to build my blog completely from scratch.

I used to do consulting for building WordPress and other CMS websites and I could never imagine myself using one of these tools for my personal needs if I were ever to start a blog myself.

There is so much code bloat and overhead when using any CMS or framework for the purpose of blogging. All I really need for my blog is a simple interface for adding some text and images to a database and a simple server that wraps everything together for the end-user.

This is my blog that I have built completely from scratch: https://miikavonbell.com

I really like the minimalistic approach of Tom's blog and will take some notes to improve my own platform.


Love the article. I think about this in terms of SEO. We have our niches. If we succeed in our niches, we expand the likelihood our content will rank highly for those (iudually rare) queries for people in our community.

As such, I’ve always considered inbound links the best outcomes for a blog. It relates to things the author mentions: connections to opportunities for podcasts, clients etc. It helps you understand whether your stuff seen as interesting and authoritative for its niche? Are you building and defining the niche? Are you defining new ways of talking about your field?

The downside is inbound links can be a very long, trailing metric that takes months or years to materialize.

(I use moz toolbar to measure this)


Love this premise! I’ve created my blog and website on Gatsby and am experimenting with creating small targeted campaigns for each of my posts depending on the topic/theme using a self hosted matomo analytics service and a self hosted staticman service (which creates a GitHub PR for moderation) so there are no creepy intermediaries for handling data. It’s pretty surprising and empowering how many solutions are out there that don’t need you to sign up to platforms, but it definitely is a slight (but fun) learning curve. Check it out here https://apurva-shukla.me


This is one of my favorite topics. I agree with it all, except that it is possible to have serendipitous moments through distribution on a platform like Medium. My Medium content is now generally only for companies I work for, but I still get personal emails and invitations for work, podcasts, connections, etc from them. That said, I’d prefer these come from traffic tied to my own blog.


I made a few videos on YouTube, the most popular has a couple thousand views. But I also made a short video that has 54 views. I met with 3 of those people from the 54 views. Sometimes, metrics can obscure the the context of the work you produce.


(2018)

Some discussion from 3 years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16447337


I like the premise, mostly because it takes off the pressure. Just write what you think, and your contemporaries will find you!


It's always exciting to start, but maintaining it is challenging!


love this, gotta dig more into this blog (*bLOG)




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