Your words are wasted
It needs to be said again, perhaps this time more strongly. Your Blog is The Engine of Community. Dammit.
You are not blogging enough. You are pouring your words into increasingly closed and often walled gardens. You are giving control - and sometimes ownership - of your content to social media companies that will SURELY fail. These companies are profoundly overvalued, don't care about permalinks, don't make your content portable, and have terms of service that are so complex and obtuse that there are entire websites dedicate to explaining them.
I've presented at a number of "town hall" style meetings and often presented (for YEARS now) talks on "Social Media for Developers" where I've said "Every developer should have a blog." Put yourself out there and make it findable. And still you tweet giving all your life's precious remaining keystrokes to a company and a service that doesn't love or care about you - to a service that can't even find a tweet you wrote a month ago.
Where are people writing?
My friend Jon Udell is asking "Where have all the bloggers gone?" and watched both he and his wife's "Blog's Heartbeat" reduce to an almost comatose level. Tim Bray notices this pattern as well.
Now more companies and consortiums are popping up claiming to be "reimagining writing" or "rethinking publishing" or take the concept of a simple "draft post" and, according to Svbtle "[allow] ideas to start abstractly, to ruminate for a while, and then, as I work on them, to become more and more concrete until they’re ready to be published as articles." So, reinventing drafts? Regardless, Svbtle and it's new design has since attracted a who's who of Silicon Valley thinkers and is now on its way to becoming the digirati's Economist, except with bylines.
Here's the thing though, it's still RSS. It's just a blog.
Own Your Words
I've been blogging here for over 10 years. On my domain, running my software pushing out HTML when you visit the site on any device and RSS or ATOM when you look at it with Google Reader (which 97% of you do.) I control this domain, this software and this content. The feed is full content and the space is mine. Tim nails it so I'll make this super clear. If you decide to use a service where you don't control your content, you're renting.
Own your space on the Web, and pay for it. Extra effort, but otherwise you’re a sharecropper. - Tim Bray
In a time where we are all gnashing our teeth about Twitter's API changes that may lock out many 3rd party developers, Google Plus's lack of content portability or lack of respect for the permalink, as well as the rise of
country club social networks pay-for social networks like http://app.net we find ourselves asking questions like:
- Why doesn't someone make a free or cheap social network for the people?
- Why can't I control my content?
- Why can't I export everything I've written?
- Who owns what I type?
- Why isn't there an open API for my content?
- Why can't I search posts over a month old?
- Why can't I have this or that username?
- Why am I not verified?
All these questions are asked about social networks we don't control and of companies who don't have our best interests at heart. We are asking these questions in 2012? Read those bullets again. These were solved problems in 1999.
You want control? Buy a domain and blog there.
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Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
Also nice tip on using draft posting to allow ideas to flow and then publish when ready. Personally I made a conscious effort of doing this recently and I felt it makes a big difference it the quality of what gets published.
Look at your blog as an extension of your brain.
It pretty much comes down to: do you want to be a content aggregator or a content producer? Which one will you enjoy more, and which one will pay off the best?
There are some open source efforts going on in that field
fx. http://diasporaproject.org/ - don't know how complete it is though.
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 old WordPress Prologue/P2 themes comes to mind.
I really like your blog, and would like to know what option you have used for this ? Did you build it all from scratch ?
Time to re-boot my programming blog, thanks for the push!
Do you have any thoughts on maintaining a blog using a free blogging service?
For example, WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr all have free hosting services. You can still export your content using these services (although WordPress won't export any images!).
These free services still mean you're "renting" space in a way, although you could argue they are bit less of a walled garden than, say, Facebook or even Google Plus. Any thoughts? Thanks
The unhealthy ecosystem of aggressive, destructive criticism and a failure for anyone to actually give a shit about blogs in the first place is harming the prevalence of blogs.
The great thing about GitHub pages is that your site is then a regular Git repo, which will of course have a complete history of on your machine. Also since GitHub are then hosting you don't have to worry about performance or uptime or any of those things (plus given a static site is generated by Jekyll performance shouldn't be an issue anyway :) Github also allows you to set a CNAME so you can point to it from your own domain.
To set it up: simply create a repo on GitHub named [yourGitHubUsername].github.com, the site will then be available at that URL, and the Jekyll site will be automatically built when you commit to that repo.
I think this is great as it gives you enough ownership that in the event of some horrible change to GitHub ToS, you can just get your own hosting, generate the Jekyll site yourself and simply push the static files to your host.
This is what I've started doing to get a blog up and running. It's great fun to play with. You get enough control that you can do some interesting things (Jekyll's template language allows you to do if's for's etc), but you don't have to worry about taking on an off the shelf behemoth or rolling your own blog engine :)
Note: I am in no way affiliated with GH or Jekyll, I just love the concept
I couldn't tell from your post whether you think app.net is part of the problem or part of the solution. I see it as part of the solution. The whole concept is to put the user and developer needs first. The user gets total control of their content. Yes, you have to pay a monthly fee, but it's a small price to pay. I pay fees to host my websites, so that I have total control over them. It's no different. Nothing is truly free. Everything has a price in the long run.
As far as blogging goes, using WordPress as suggested by some here is still giving up control. If you can't get all your content (including the images) whenever you want, you're losing. And these types of sites always implement more restrictions and power over your content, not less, as time goes on.
I still don't have a blog written in my native language. This is where light alternatives like Calepin.co can come in handy. Regarding services like Svbtle and Medium, their are missing their target audience by a long shot. I won't be surprised if they change their focus sooner than later.
No matter what happens to another next big thing social you own domain and your blog will stay.
I have a blog, but it's not conducive to casual, everyday snapshots the way twitter is, I like being able to post quick opinions or jokes, I think it helps build a rapport with your followers. A lot of the stuff I say/do on twitter I think is valuable, but its far too small to blog. I can't write a whole blog post about everything I tweet about, and a lot of them are too eclectic to somehow shoehorn them into one post.
The thing is, I agree, it really annoys me that Twitter can't find ANY of my old hashtags, I can't search my own history, its USELESS in that respect. But (it seems to me) that people spend a lot more time reading content on twitter than they do following blogs? Of course you can always just use twitter to LINK to your blogs, but most people won't follow someone if all they post is links...
I'm not sure what I think about this subect anymore!
As for the dude who thinks that devs shouldn't blog... Maybe if they did (or contributed to open source, mentored others in person, etc.), the state of our trade wouldn't suck so much. The honest truth is that I encounter more people who suck at this, CS degree or high school drop out, than people who build sustainable, supportable, awesome software.
Unfortunately, this isn't just true of blogging. Try selling a commodity product from your own site. By the time you set it up and market it, you'll be lucky to break even. Companies like Amazon are decimating the last of the middle-class businesses, leaving us with boarded up storefronts and a sea of ho-hum, big box stores.
Scott, it is admirable to advocate against this trend, but you also contribute to it by supporting "Open Source" which is part of the entire Web 2.0 that Jaron Lanier warns us about. This movement is destroying opportunities for small developers, leaving only a few big wigs at the top and an endless supply of cyber-serfs who must compete globally for a bowl of rice.
This trend will only continue for the foreseeable future until we as developers take a stand against open source because it's anti-intellectual and only encourages the worst outcome of capitalism.
I just happened to comment (before receiving your e-mail announcement about this blog) on a new social-content meta-publishing site, that I stumbled across by accident, Quora, just about 23 hours ago, on CodeProject
My comment involves the draconian assertion of rights by Quora to user's content, in their "Terms of Service" agreement:
Now if you can figure out a way that blogging value can be rated like stackoverflow I think you are on to a winner.
I was already duped into how wonderful home ownership is. Turns out I'd have way more free time and money if I rented.
Owning doesn't automatically mean better.
To each their own. There isn't own right answer.
What is it about software development in particular that makes blogging so important that we should all do it?
Should every architect have a blog? Should every accountant have a blog? Every doctor? Every school teacher? Every lawyer? Every graphic designer? Every dental hygienist? Every photographer? Every church pastor?
Personally I've been cutting back on blogging over the past twelve months or so and I'll most likely cut back even further still throughout the autumn. My big worry about blogging is that it gives me too much scope for being a blowhard -- and I want to be known as a doer, not a critic. Besides, blogging is a very time consuming activity with not much return on investment.
I'm a developer, not a journalist. What I build, or help to build, says far more about me in that capacity than what I say.
FWIW: Dave Winer at www.scriptingnews.com has been trumpeting many of these same sentiments for a *long* time, especially the issues that silo'd services represent and the silliness of the 'RSS is dead' meme.
Because I wasn't sure how long term this was going to be I didn't want to invest money into it just to find out I was no good at it so I use my free Blogger account. Maybe one day if I ever want my own domain it will come back to bite me but I think it is more important to just start rather than spend ages thinking how you'll do it.
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.
I built the blog engine, RSS, backup capability, even a random sentence generator. I eventually made it completely dynamic (can change the entire site without a redeploy).
But nowadays, it's just a repository that no one's ever read for game reviews that I've written. Go figure.
Not saying I disagree, I think this whole argument has thrown me back to where I was back in 2003-2004, running my own blog, but, really, where's the cutoff?
And then there's the times where I think, "I'll write this up". But then I see plenty of posts about it already so I don't go forward. I suppose writing so that it's in my own voice gives the world a different perspective. That's something I need to keep in mind.
I followed your advice from January and started blogging (which means I'm still learning to do it right) but it feels like I'm just pushing content out into a black hole, like the ship has sailed long ago and whatever I'm writing is much too little too late.
For an introverted developer who hasn't authored books or presented content at various conferences and is not an "expert" at anything in particular, how does one build something worth pushing out into the community? Is it a case of "if you build it, they will come"? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!
I always get caught up in the idea of whether or not what I am wanting to write about is of any value. Then I read this in Walden where Thoreau is talking about his early years as a journalist and not getting paid for his efforts:
I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one's while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them. The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?
I've been tossing around the idea of building/adding a microblog section to my blog for a little while now (completely separate from the normal blog posts), where posts to the microblog would/could be forwarded on to Twitter.
Taking just this idea a little further, it seems that blog platforms could evolve into social platforms where your social interactions start, are archived, potentially displayed and then forwarded on to the relevant walled gardens... Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Flickr, etc.
Every now and then I come up with challenges at work and I'd to store the knowledge somewhere. May it be a reference to another page, or instructions or whatever. It irks me when I come across the same issue down the road and think "I know I did this before! Only if I had blogged it..."
TL;DR - Thanks for inspiring me again Scott. Thanks everyone else for reminding me how important this is.
Twitter/Facebook clients already cross post between both the social platforms. Seems like an extra feature to add some permanence to the daily chatter would be to collect all those thoughts and then post them en-masse as a blog post.
Just post to Facebook/Twitter using the app which could collect the conversations in it's log and then click the big "Save My Words" button to collect all those thoughts into one post. You could either pretty up the social chatter and make it all awesome (via some Live Writer editing or some such) or just post all of collected (and un-saved) thoughts/conversations as is. Would make for some easy blogging and would help to preserve those wasted words.
I was never a very consistent blogger when I was writing, but with Twitter I have found that I have ceased entirely. Having something like that app might be an easy way to ease back into the waters again. And at the very least, my words would be saved.
Short, quick, pseduo-realtime, and if more words are needed, FB or G+ is here.
"If you want to know, follow me"
Except for some people like you, blogs are dying because we are on twitter, FB, now G+, tomorrow on another social network, because you feel that you *need* to be there and you can see more easily people around you.
I'm sad that Scott Guthrie discovered Twitter, and glad that Raymond Chen doesn't like it.
(insert here charts about bloggers activity before and after tweeting)
Thanks for the kick in the pants.
I have an answer.
Taking Scott's advice, I blogged about it here, but I'm not pushing my blog on anyone, so here's the quick rundown:
Sign up for Microsoft's BizSpark program**, which comes with free Windows Azure website hosting. You can host a blog there, for free.
**There are eligibility requirements for BizSpark
I see your are using the "dasBlog" blogging engine.
Did you modify it in some way or are you using it as it is?
The reason I am asking is I am running my website on ASP.NET MVC and my blog on BlogEngine.NET. I would very much like to bring these worlds together or migrate content to a blog engine that could run inside my MVC application.
I figure this could be a topic requiring your "One ASP.NET" expertise.
It just leaves me wondering about two things:
- With English not being my native language, should I just keep my blog in German? This would heavily narrow down the potential readers.
- And the second question would be, if it would be okay to mix programming related stuff with non-programming topics? I am not sure if readers might frequent the blog more often it is just "more active" or if they would prefer to just stick with a certain main topic.
What would you advice to do?
If it's just about collecting your thoughts or findings for personal reference (as some comments have suggested) in the future then there are other, less public, tools available.. evernote for example.
If you really feel the need to share then go for it. However, nobody should think less of you if you decide not to blog and it should never be seen as a failing.
This blog for example, is written by a pillar of the development community. Someone who gets around, speaks a lot, presents a lot, gets to try the cool new tools before anyone else. They have a lot to say, say it well, and they have a big following. Thus, it's a succesful blog.
Your average dev doesn't have this luxury.. no one knows him, chances are he's stuck using old tools, on the same product for the last 3 years. Unless you're freelance of course, but is anybody really listening to you? Who's leaving comments.. anyone?
I've read blogs.. and just thought why? why are you even bothering. Then I've read blogs and thought yes.. I'll be a regular reader here.
The worst thing one can do is to use twitter for things that have long term value because it won't be searchable.
Websites/blogs can reach a far greater audience in the long run than twitter or facebook.
As a Realtor in Charleston Wv, I have always had my own site that I blogged on since about 2006. Since then, other 3rd party sites have popped up wanting me to blog on their big Real Estate website. I have resisted somewhat but I have always posted on my site first then to "ActiveLane" or what have you.
What are your thoughts on content curators ?
On a side note I have decided to build the blog engine myself, which I think is another benefit of having your own blog. It means I can tinker and try out new technologies on it.
But we will NEVER have broad adoption of self hosted content until the damn ISPs give regular users permission to run a server without an expensive business class internet plan. Commodity hosting services are too expensive and/or too awful to fill in the gaps.
I couldn't agree more with the basis of this article. Nothing these sites are doing benefits us without benefiting them even more. And when that dries up, we're toast.
But, I have a question. I'm going to finally hook up my own blog (only been talking about it for 10 years). Not sure which engine to use. Not sure anyone but my kids are even going read it and probably half of them won't.
But I want to do the whole thing on Azure. Good experience and all, right? Move everything over there, centralized and single control panel, support the good guys, etc.
I currently have firstname.lastname@example.org and want to continue to use that.
What are people doing about email to their own domain? I'll probably just forward it to my outlook account anyway, but I want to keep using that email address.
Do I have to host a VM with apache on it or something? I know sendmail exists, but it seems like they are for email marketing and so on. I just need to have me MX record somewhere forwarding mail to my outlook.com account, right?
Seems like everyone else has figured this out, but I'm pretty sure you have, as always, the best answer.
Thanks in advance.
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