For me, a big problem is that posting to Facebook or Twitter to share things is far easier than blogging. Blogging is more work. Particularly when posting a short blurt like this one. Particularly when posting from a phone, as I am now. Particularly when sitting on a daybed with a dog who has decided it is time for me to pay attention to her. Maybe that last bit is not a problem for most people, or one that internet technology will solve.
Dave is my blogging spirit animal. I like blogging, and I like sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, and Medium. Of those platforms, I get the most return from Facebook. But blogging AND sharing to Facebook and Google+ are just too much work. So I’m going to start focusing mainly on the blog, and just automatically share links to Google+ and Facebook, until those platforms become easier to deal with in conjunction with a blog.
I’m working on figuring out a way I can share short updates directly to those services and to the blog simultaneously. This will involve automated email and plenty of duck tape.
You’re welcome to leave comments here, or on Facebook or Google+. Or just stop reading, even if you’re a close friend or member of my immediate family. I do not require other people to participate in my peculiar hobby.
I will revisit this decision when it doesn’t seem to be working for me, or when the tools for sharing blog content to social media get easier to work with.
I’ll keep mirroring my posts to Tumblr and Medium because that’s easy.
And I’m still trying to figure out what to do about Twitter.
I made a couple of changes to the blog recently. Readers will find these changes to be minor. But they’re a big deal for me.
When I put up a post that’s primarily a link to something elsewhere — an article in the news, for instance — the DFLL plugin changes the title of the post so it links to the external article. Normal behavior on WordPress is for the title of the post to link to the post itself.
This solves the problem for me of having to figure out where to put the link when I write a link post. It’s a small decision, but eliminating it speeds up the blogging process and makes the process more pleasant.
Also, readers of this blog can more easily find the link to the external article.
And it means less of a need for me to reformat blog posts for posting to Facebook and Google+.
So it’s a nice little utility.
The DFLL plugin is designed to modify the RSS feed of the blog. To modify the Web pages, I had to learn to install a child theme on WordPress, which is simple — once you figure out how to do it. The author of the DFLL plugin provides pre-cooked child themes for the Twenty Ten and Twenty Eleven WordPress themes, but none for Twenty Fifteen, which is the one I used. So now I’m using the Twenty Eleven theme.
At some point, I may want to figure out how to modify WordPress themes more to my liking. I like a lighter theme. Examples: Manton.org, The Loop, 512 Pixels, and Hypertext.net. However, those blogs don’t run as many photos and images as I do, so maybe this blog is just going to be heavier and there’s nothing I can do about it without making unacceptable sacrifices.
Thanks to Benjamin Brooks for pointing out this nice little plugin, and for responding when I asked him if he is still using it, and it still works well despite no updates in years. (The answers of course were yes and yes.)
The name of the plugin — Daring Fireball-Style Linked List — comes from the blog Daring Fireball, which pioneered this style of blogging.
I figured out how to hide categories so they don’t display on the website. I’ve been wanting to do this since I relaunched the blog in February, so while this is a small change externally it’s a bit of a triumph for me.
WordPress offers the option of assigning both categories and tags to posts. I have never figured out when to use categories and when to use tags. After doing some reading — for example, here and here — I have come to the conclusion that the reason WordPress supports both categories and tags is that categories came first and now some people like categories and some people like tags and some people like both.
Categories and tags seem redundant and confusing to me but as long as my blog displayed categories and tags I felt obliged to select both in a way that would be useful to readers.
Hiding categories is simple — once you figure out how to do it. You create a child theme, then go into the files content-single.php and content.php, navigate down to the sections for the blog entry footer, and delete everything that looks like a category listing.
On the home page, which is controlled by content.php, that code starts with something like “Posted in”
On single entries, controlled by the “content-single.php” file, the wording is slightly different.
Look to the public web pages of your own blog to find the exact wording, then go into content.php and content-single.php files to make the necessary changes.
And now that’s done and I no longer have to decide on a category for every blog post.
I may stop using tags too, but for now I’m sticking with them. I’m trying out the Strictly Auto Tags plugin to automate the process. I’m not sure how much help it actually is — it doesn’t usually seem to choose the tags I would have chosen. Perhaps I can fiddle with the settings and make it work.
Categories and tags are supposedly important for search engine optimization. SEO isn’t a priority for me on this blog. It’s desirable, but it’s not something I’ll go out of my way to do.
1999.io is an extremely intriguing project. 1999.io is designed to be a dead-simple blogging platform. “As easy as writing a tweet or Facebook post,” says Dave.
Dave has essentially the same blog philosophy as mine: Both social media and blogging are here to stay. Publish your content everywhere. If possible, don’t just post links on social media back to your blog. Publish the actual content on the social platform, if the social platform allows it. (I’m looking at YOU, Twitter and Google+.)
You’re not looking to build traffic back to your blog. That’s a fool’s game. You’re looking to connect with people. If you’re a personal blogger (like me, here), clicks don’t make social connections. And if you’re a business, clicks don’t make payroll — sales make payroll.
Dave claims to have the oldest, longest-continuously-operated blog in the Internet. I think he’s right. He also pioneered blogging software, with the first blogging application easy enough for regular people to use, Userland Radio, back around 2000.
Well, it was ALMOST easy enough for regular people to use. If you were a regular person, you’d have to get someone else to set it up for you. But it was a huge step forward for ease of use compared with the previous state of the art.
I’ll be watching 1999.io closely.
But I’ve increasingly become dissatisfied with that arrangement. Those platforms are owned by other people – Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Those companies control the format of my posts, and who gets to comment on them. Those companies can make changes to their service, or even shut down entirely, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
All of that was something I was willing to live with for the trade-off of connecting with other people. But in recent months, the kinds of connections I get through those services have been unsatisfying. I’m getting more comments from jerks and other unpleasant randos, and getting tired of blocking them.
So now I’m posting my links and kibitzing here. Because I own this site, I have greater control over the platform than I do over what happens on social media.
A blog is a home. Social media is couch-surfing.
Does this mean I’m leaving social media?
Not at all. I’ll continue sharing my posts from here to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and watching discussions there as before. Indeed, I’m looking for better ways to share on those platforms without taking up a lot of my time. Because this thing I do here is just a hobby.
I did this experiment once before, for five months in 2014, and ended up going back to social media. But now it’s different. At that time I was still concerned with increasing the numbers of people following me on social media – the size of my communities there. I’m less concerned now. My community numbers have been flat recently on all the services I use, and I don’t mind it. The noise from jerks and unpleasant randos is loud enough to make my social media experience less pleasant. More followers = more noise.
Also, social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are starting to become public squares. We’ve always talked about them that way, but I’m seeing that myself now and it’s a mixed blessing. We’re not individuals there, we’re just part of the group. I’ve had people commenting on my posts and refer to me in the third person – not even by name, just as “OP” (for “original poster” – a shorthand I first saw on Reddit). They start calling each other names. When I ask them to be civil with each other, they want to know who the hell I am to tell them what to do. I don’t bother to ask anymore. I just block them when they get too annoying. It’s tedious. It makes social media too much like work.
By moving off of social media to a blog platform, I make it harder for people to find and read my posts. Not a lot, just a tiny bit. And I like it that way. I’m hoping that tiny little speed bump will improve the quality of conversation. Anybody willing to make that tiny bit of effort to get here is welcome. But they have to make that tiny little bit of effort.
If my follower numbers grow by a little or a lot, I’ll be happy about that. But if they don’t, I’m fine with that too. I don’t plan to take any special steps to grow my follower numbers – no ads or search engine optimization or suchlike shenanigans. I want people to be able to find me easily if that’s what they want, and if they’re not interested, that’s fine too. 1
Also: I recently read a blog post by a friend who’s taking a Facebook break. She values her privacy so I won’t link to it. But she, like me, is an introvert. And like me she finds social media connections to be a substitute for real life connections. She was finding going on Facebook often made her feel bad. I can relate.
I hope that by taking this baby step back from social media, I can understand better the extent to which I value personal connections, and how much I need of them, and to what extent I’m happy to be my introverted self. 2
If you’re interested in continuing to read my links and posts, thank you! Just keep on following me on social media, as you were, and click over here to read anything you find interesting. Or don’t – that’s OK too. Or you bookmark this site and come back regularly. Or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Also, you can get a daily email newsletter of my posts. I think the newsletter option is nifty and I’m surprised more people don’t take advantage of it. Perhaps I haven’t spread the word enough?
By the way, my blogging here might be temporary. I get infatuated with one technology or another and then lose interest rapidly and move on, much to the annoyance of a few friends who look to me as a technology bellwether.
On the other hand, I do stay with some things. I’ve been an online enthusiast for 27 years, longer than the Internet has been popular with the general public. I’ve been in the Appleverse for nine years now and am still satisfied. And I’ve been blogging like I do here for about nine years as well. So don’t be surprised if this blog is still up and running in some form 10 years from now, and don’t be surprised if I give it up in a few months either.
I do expect that if I stick with this for years I won’t always be on WordPress. But I do think whatever platform I’m using, I’ll continue blogging, continue doing it here at this URL, and hopefully all the archives will be in the same place too.
- Even friends and family should feel no obligation to connect with me online. This is my peculiar hobby that I’m happy to share with anyone, but have no interest in inflicting on people unwillingly. ↩︎
- “Introvert” has become such an overused word on the Internet. It makes me feel like an annoying hipster to proclaim myself to be one. On the other hand, maybe I’m missing out on an opportunity to ride the hype. I could start introvert clubs! Host an introvert conference! Just send me money and stay home and do whatever you want without interacting with other people. ↩︎
I was doing an experiment for a couple of months sharing links and off-the-cuff posts on this blog. It’s the kind of thing people usually post nowadays to social media. But I liked the idea of having my own little corner of the internet for “tumble blogging.”
Turns out people aren’t interested in that kind of thing here. They want to see it on social media. So I’m going back to that.
For a short time I experimented sharing links and off-the-cuff posts on this blog.
Turns out people aren’t interested in that kind of thing here. They want to see it on social media. So I’m going back to that.
Find me daily on:
My email newsletter – a daily spam-free roundup of my posts.
I post the same things on all those places. Pick whichever you like best and follow me there.
And you’ll find my best work on Light Reading, for news and insights about the telecom industry.
This blog isn’t going away, but it will update slowly.
Mike and I have a fundamental disagreement on how to use blogging and social media. He blogs on a third-party platform he does not control, Google+. I did this myself until recently, but in April I started blogging here. I want to build something long-term, and I don’t have faith Google+ is around for the long term.
I have not abandoned social media. Far from it. I use Google+ and other social media for publicity and discussion. I check social media a couple of times a day.
Publicity is a bit of a dirty word, because people do spammy things for publicity. But all I’m talking about here is using social to notify people that I’ve got a new blog post up, when I have their permission to do so. Every single one of these people is someone who has implicitly asked to be informed by virtue of having followed me on social media.
Don’t want to be informed about my updates? Unfollow me. I won’t mind — not even if we’re coworkers, friends, or even family. With one exception, none of my family follows me closely on social. And that’s OK. Being active on social media is like being an avid model railroader — a perfectly lovely hobby but not everybody who stops by the house should be dragged into the basement every time they visit to watch the electric train set go round and round.
Julie does follow me closely but I try to remember to remind her a couple of times a year that she doesn’t need to feel obligated to do so by virtue of our being married. It wasn’t in the vows.
But I digress.
The essential part of Mike’s advice is sound: Use social blogging to let people know what you’re doing, what you think, and what you feel. Social blogging is not for denouncing people who disagree with your politics, or for sharing things other people created.
Mike is a purist on the sharing — he often shares other people’s content but he always has his own take on it. I’m a bit more lax; I’ll share other people’s content if I think it’s noteworthy. But really I’m more and more coming to think that sharing personal experience, thoughts, and feelings is the best way to blog.
As for politics: Five or 10 years ago I was more active sharing about politics, because I felt like Someone Should Speak Out. Now, plenty of people are Speaking Out. It’s all gotten to be noise. I’m reminded of a friend who is a very religious Christian. Christians have an obligation to witness their faith to convert others. My friend said the televangelists had so poisoned that well that speaking directly about Christianity just drives people away. Instead, he lets it be known he is a Christian and witnesses by example of living his own life.
Similarly, people denouncing other people’s politics has gotten to be an annoying noise. Mostly I don’t say anything nowadays. If I feel strongly about something — like just this morning — I speak out. Mostly I just shut up. Did some state Senator I’ve never heard of in a state I’ve never visited say something stupid and offensive? Happens every week. Price of republican democracy — you end up electing a certain percentage of idiots. And maybe the guy isn’t really an idiot anyway — everybody puts their foot in their mouth now and again.
More often, when I talk about politics, it’s about the game. When I say I think Hillary Clinton is a shoo-in for the Presidency in 2016, it’s not because I support her or oppose her. It’s just how I assess the race. (By the way, that’s something I would have said a few months ago but not now.)
The biggest mistake you can make on blogging and social media is trying to rack up numbers for the sake of racking them up. 100 valuable followers is better than 1,000 disengaged ones. And anybody who buys followers ought to have their credit cards taken away from them because they have demonstrated a complete inability to spend money intelligently.
By the way, did you see what I did here? Rather than just sharing a link to Mike’s article, I shared my own thoughts about it too.
Dan Gillmor: Why the indie Web movement is so important.
We’re in danger of losing what’s made the Internet the most important medium in history – a decentralized platform where the people at the edges of the networks – that would be you and me – don’t need permission to communicate, create and innovate.
This isn’t a knock on social networks’ legitimacy, or their considerable utility. But when we use centralized services like social media sites, however helpful and convenient they may be, we are handing over ultimate control to third parties that profit from our work, material that exists on their sites only as long as they allow.
That’s a big part of why I started this blog. I realized I don’t want to let Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr own what I create, even if it’s a link to a silly meme. I’ll continue to be as active as before on those platforms, and I’ve configured this blog to automatically post links from here to those places. But the content will originate here. And if you want to follow me here rather than somewhere else, well, that would make me happy.
You’re free not to follow me at all, too. I won’t mind. I know what I do here isn’t to everyone’s liking, and if you don’t like it I won’t take it personally.
This blog is hosted on WordPress.com, but WordPress makes it very easy to move a website elsewhere if you don’t like what they’re doing.
So you can find me here on Like I Was Saying, hopefully for, well, the entire foreseeable future.