Why does paying App.net a bit over four dollars a month make me a member of an elitist "country club", while paying much more than that for my own domain and hosting and backups and uptime monitoring and rapid application of security patches and the talent needed to manage all that makes me a salt-of-the-earth man of the people? Seems like that's only true from a very specific perspective.
I've made too much money setting up other people's blog software to pretend I don't understand why Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr (and even HN, for that matter) are better. People don't want to be publishers. They don't even want to be writers. They want to share things online with their friends.
I see a lot of complaints in this essay about archiving - you can't find old content, you can't save old content. Archiving is overrated. And I say that as someone who loves archives and archivists. It is important to save things, but most writing is not intended for the ages. Quite the opposite: The fact that one can spout some crazy in-jokes to one's friends on Twitter, and in a week from now nobody will be able to find those words, is a feature. And the fact that, in truth, Twitter and Facebook are almost certainly quietly archiving all your drunken rants forever, such that twenty years from now your neighbors will be able to pull them right up and show them to their dinner guests for a laugh, is a terrifying bug.
Again, most people don't want to be librarians, publishers, journalists, historians, ethnologists, typesetters, designers, promoters, SEO experts, or proud users of a piece of software. And even those of us who do want some of these things enjoy taking a break once in a while. We just want to socialize.
I have a blog - and a facebook account and a g+ account. The blog gets my best content. But it's not easy to integrate a standalone blog into an existing social graph (social buttons notwithstanding).
G+ gets my less well thought out rants - short stuff. It allows me to cheaply signal to like minded people and hopefully establish new readers/relationships. I don't care if I offend people on G+ because I'm there to attract the like minded. So I say what I think.
And facebook is just a socialisation wheel greaser for local friendships. Here I'm much more guarded. I use content posted by people as conversation starters for when I see them in real life. I might have to deal with these people - so I keep it light, fluffy and fun. I personally don't care if facebook deletes all that content. (I see it as a medium risk since facebook isn't a particularly diversified business)
I decided a while ago that I need to engage on all these platforms - because concentrating solely on a blog only increases your overall isolation to your local life - cause it takes an enormous amount of time - and even your closest local friends aren't likely to even read it.
It might mean that I'll never put enough time into the blog for it be a standalone success. But the odds of that ever happening were slim to nil anyway - even if it did get 100 percent of my time. And there would have been a very high chance that I would have been miserable because such dedication would have led to a high degree of isolation.
This is the right balance for me. I don't expect everyone to have the same view - but then I'm not claiming it's right for everyone.
Don't get me wrong - I would love for there to be a decentralised social graph that allowed us to eat our cake and have it too. But that aint going to happen any time soon.
For static websites, even eCommerce websites, it's a great and effective way to add fresh content and pages to a site, and push up its rankings.
I'm a fast writer - easily able to produce a 600 word post in 20 minutes - and I write prose that is easy to read. The strategy works - on a robot level (Google), and on a human level (customers), but it takes time and persistence. It may take 6 months for a series of posts to cause a category page to rank in the top 3 of Google - in some cases longer.
It's also a strategy that many competitors cannot duplicate, as most are unable to write regular, meaningful blog posts. It's one of those SEO tactics that requires actual, real work, which is why so few do it well.
Wordpress, with a custom theme that fits in seamlessly with the website, is the way to go.
Either use a distribution list, or have someone in your group set up a forwarding address that forwards to all the people in your group.
No, there's no place to go to, but it's much more conversation oriented than openly stalking your friends on their social network pages.
I don't want to look at my friends or their stuff, I want to talk with them.
Perhaps blogging tools need to adapt to more short form uses and have posting interfaces that seem more accommodating rather than a massive empty textarea with tons of options from slug to categories and tags.
The WordPress Prologue/P2 themes comes to mind.
"I don't have time to blog" = "The time it would take me to blog is worth more to me than the ROI I'd get from writing a blog."
and "I don't know what I'd write about" = "I don't know who'd be reading my blog so as to make it easy to know what to write about."
Facebook and Twitter address both objections by giving users a well-defined, sometimes really big audience.
The idea of writing stuff they think no one's going to read isn't very appetizing to most people.
But status updates, tweets, etc. are usually short, disconnected thoughts.
I recently started blogging and my first blog post about why I blog has exactly the same reasons - control over content and flexibility.
I've been posting for a month and a half, two posts a week on average, and now I'm starting to get discouraged - it's not that I don't like the blog it just that it got zero traction outside my circle of techie friends. I launched a small Trello app at the same time and even though both got zero marketing the app is about 3 times more popular by views and tens of times more popular by users (granted it is still only hundreds of views and tens of users).
What has discouraged me the most is that even when I put myself out there and posted something relevant and interesting (IMHO) on Hacker News I got exactly 1 vote and no comments. It's not even that it is bad, it's ignored.
I know that a month is not something substantial and if I continue to create interesting content people will eventually come (with some marketing). I just want to have a counter-point that a blog is not just writing text on your on domain - you have to market it and even than people might not care, just like any other product.
Would it be possible for you to blog not for the traction, but for the sake of blogging?
I think my blog was closed to everyone but me for the first couple of years I was posting - I just did not want my employer to stumble upon it by random chance, I had no idea what the reaction could be. But I found out that it was still useful - a number of times, when I had to remember something about the way I solved some particular problem, I searched my own blog and found it.
Now it's almost a habit - whenever I do something even remotely interesting, it pops into my head - wait, I could write a short blog post about it in 10-15 minutes. So I do.
I'm kinda interested at why you chose to reply to the thread here instead of the same comment posted in your blog? I feel that the discussion here is of higher quality (whatever that means), but the blog is, as you advocate, your own space.
I've seen some blogs without comments and all the discussion is happening on Hacker News or Reddit, so I'd like to hear your thoughts about it.
I worry about things like Disqus as well as they are just another place to put our content. It looks like it's on our site but it's not. They WILL die one day and then what happens to the comments?
For now, I go where the discussion is but I'd prefer to own both.
(Google search shows two such apps - one has shutdown and one is now a casino site... Maybe it's just not profitable.)
I'd be interested in hearing where/how he draws the line.
N.B.: I looked into Wordpress et al., but I always avoid using software written in PHP if I can, and theming in Wordpress involves more time than I have to spare.
N.B.: I looked into Wordpress et al., but I always avoid using software written in PHP if I can, and theming in Wordpress involves more time than I have to spare.
"You want control? Buy a domain and blog there. "
And at the very least if you don't want to pay or setup your own hosting site (and want to go the free route) at least register your own domain and have it pointed by cname or web forwarding to any of the free hosting providers out there. (Making sure to keep a backup of course).
Of course since true web hosting can be had very cheaply today (this isn't 1996) there really isn't any reason to just not setup your own site. If you are going to take the time to write something you can spend .50 per day (or less) on web hosting. What's your time worth?
can YOU imagine, that any big newspaper or library will store the (maybe) really important things on this systems - or ANYTHING else outside the blog-sharosphere? (sharophere should get the right buzzword for this activism)
no... not really...
imho and like "mechanical_fish" mentioned, all people think, that their data, blog-entries, pictures or even JOKES are so important (funny/cool/needed), that should be shared all over the world...
i'm not an anti-share-man in contrast to that, i REALLY use twitter, facebook etc., but the "hype" on blogging is too much for me.
let me clarify this a little bit and maybe from a technical point of view:
in the last years, since ANYBODY thinks, that their mini-uncomplicated solution for $this problem in $that language that this should be shared, because it's "really important", the web is full of trash and blog-entries, where the question is searched an answer to, is just rewritten, WITHOUT an answer.
any of you should now the problem, that you REALLY have to investigate now, to get a solution for a more complex problem or EVEN an academic paper/research-website...
the web is full of junk and i'm not feeling lucky about that.
what do you mean?
What if we flipped this all on its head? What if we hosted our own data, and provided APIs for all these webapps so that they can use our data? I can imagine that to be a substantially cool use of RDFa/Microformats and whatever metadata/semantic web technologies you prefer. Isn’t one of the points of the semantic web to make decentralized information meaningful, retrievable and mixable?
So instead of having our own websites aggregate our own data from other people’s websites, we’ll let other people use the data from our own websites. Photos, meaningfully tagged, can be pulled in by Flickr via our own personal API, if you will. We provide the structured data, Flickr provides the functionality. The sharing. The social. Why not?
Personal publishing platforms like WordPress, Drupal, [your favorite here] could be extended to make use of microformatting, RDF, etc. and provide tools for syndication, as we now do with simple blogposts. Services don’t need to host our data. They only need to do cool things with it.
A system like the one that GP proposes, while it could be pretty awesome, would be limited to a very small, extremely homogenous population. It's not hard to see why Facebook beats that.
So the nutty privacy freaks could happily host their own server, the drooling masses could sign up with whoever's popular that week, and everybody would still be part of one big happy family of people posting drunken party pics... :]
FB will fight such developments tooth and nail, of course...
Everyone knows what WordPress is, I think people who entertain the idea of publishing are aware of their options now. The draw of social networks is that there is a low friction process -- facilitated by an interested party -- which makes it very easy to go from ideation to publication. Until very recent versions of WP, it was a pain in the ass (from a regular user's perspective) to simply post a set of pictures along with some thoughts.
If we look at your set of questions, something like e.g. Facebook provides answers to all of them which are, yes unsatisfying, but the trade off is a low-effort process.
EDIT: Also, out of curiosity what do you use to host your site, and how/why did you choose it?
It's still very hard for the average person.
I hate this attitude. "If my grandma isn't on the service, it can't possibly be a good idea." Suddenly everything has to be everyone-scale from day one, never mind how long it took Facebook to reach beyond college students.
What makes "people who don't want to set up their own domain" homogenous compared to people who want to be first-class citizens of the internet?
Especially once the desire for that is there, it won't be hard to throw money together and run small nodes. Perfect strangers share apartments with each other, we figured that out, so once we realized we really do need webspace, and that it costs money and is complicated, respective services and culture will be established within months. Actually these services already exist for the most part, they just need to get with the OStatus program, and need to be used. Then you order your webspace, 1-click-install your "web presence", done.
And why "extremely small"? We don't even KNOW how many people are running diaspora/ostatus/etc. servers, and how many in total are signed up to them. There is no way, and no need, to count it. You just do what you always do, hold on to interesting people and projects as you run into them.
I don't know about you, but the internet was pretty cool even 10 years ago. I wouldn't mind a little small brother of the "renters social net", with the DIY peeps. Those are not homogenous by any means. They already outnumber Google+ users, I'm sure :P Also, you say "whatever" users - I take it "whatever" means "anything that isn't interoperable via open standards"?
You see, those people can do whatever they want, as far as I'm concerned. Do I listen to Gangsta Rap because X people do? NO.
Same goes for facebook etc. You want to be my cyberfriend, get your sh*t together. You want to read my stuff, or want me to read yours - don't be lazy, or it probably never really mattered in the first place. I don't mind staying in touch with RL friends who are lame when it comes to computers via facebook -- but that's not at all where my attention is, when it comes to the web. I have links on my profile, Every few months I get bored and respond or comment on random things; that's it.
Maybe app.net will be part of the solution, but I've not seen any promise from app.net to not be acquired.
The borg eventually acquire anything good with a user base, the result is mediocrity (see DejaNews).
I ran a fairly successful blog (front paged here a number of times). I recently cut the cord and abandoned it. The blogging tail is getting shorter and shorter as more and more people move to the closed and walled gardens.
I shut it down because it was the illusion of accomplishment: every time I got a hit entry I would assure myself that I've moved forward in some way, achieved something, etc. Whenever I thought about doing something actually beneficial, the easiest procrastination was to just go do a blog post instead, imagining that every hit actually meant something. That I was somehow accumulating assets in something worthwhile.
It achieves nothing, at least if you're already established. If you're new to the industry and unproven then it's a good way of trying to fake it before you make it, but if you're professionally grounded, it's a liability as much as a benefit.
Worse there is a tendency for readership to start to control what you write about, which is one reason I moved to more free-form content on a walled garden: I'll write about a caterpillar in the yard, my new lawn tractor, and some new development in Android, all because I no longer fool myself into thinking the blog is a business. It's just some random thoughts, whether read or not.
The time spent writing it -- even if you're pretty successful at it -- would almost always be better spent on other endeavours. To bring up some examples oft cited on here, John Gruber is one of the most successful bloggers, as is Marco Arment. They're reduced to trying to pitch t-shirts and affiliate links. Neither of them -- despite volumes of words spilled onto epaper -- change anything in the industry through their respective blogs. A lot of words evaporating into the ether, the converted incited into a chorus of the echo chamber.