A new year brings new calls for a return to personal blogging as an antidote to the toxic and extractive systems of social media.
My friend Garrett Robinson asked me on Twitter, “What do you see as the advantages of blogging?”. Naturally I had to reply with a blog post. I see two main advantages of blogging, both …
Most often we privilege the chronological time order because that’s how we ourselves live them, write them, and how much of our audience experiences them.
But consider looking at someone’s note collections or zettelkasten after they’re gone? One wouldn’t necessarily read them in physical order or even attempt to recreate them into time-based order. Instead they’d find an interesting topical heading, delve in and start following links around.
I’ve been thinking about this idea of “card index (or zettelkasten) as autobiography” for a bit now, though I’m yet to come to any final conclusions. (References and examples see also: https://hypothes.is/users/chrisaldrich?q=%22card+index+as+autobiography%22).
I’ve also been looking at Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project which is based on a chunk of his (unfinished) zettelkasten notes which editors have gone through and published as books. There were many paths an editor could have taken to write such a book, and many of them that Benjamin himself may not have taken, but there it is at the end of the day, a book ostensibly similar to what Benjamin would have written because there it is in his own writing in his card index.
After his death, editors excerpted 330 index cards of Roland Barthes’ collection of 12,000+ about his reactions to the passing of his mother and published them in book form as a perceived “diary”. What if someone were to do this with your Tweets or status updates after your death?
Does this perspective change your ideas on time ordering, taxonomies, etc. and how people will think about what we wrote?
I’ll come back perhaps after I’ve read Barthes’ The Death of the Author…
Also in reply to:
This week I was able to catch up a bit on some podcasts I subscribe to. One of the casts I’ve been enjoying lately is 25 Years of Ed Tech, a serialized version of Martin Weller’s book by the same title. Now audio books are plenty good by themselves, but this particular podcast has an addition episode per chapter called “between the chapters” where a host interviews members of the ed tech community (those around Martin in some way) about the topic of the previous chapter. This week was all about blogs.
He mentions Stephen Downes‘ regular workflow as well. I think mine is fairly similar to Stephen’s. To some extent, I write much more on my own website now than I ever had before. This is because I post a lot more frequently to my own site, in part because it’s just so easy to do. I’ll bookmark things or post about what I’ve recently read or watched. My short commentary on some of these is just that—short commentary. But occasionally I discover, depending on the subject, that those short notes and bookmark posts will spring into something bigger or larger. Sometimes it’s a handful of small posts over a few days or weeks that ultimately inspires the longer thing. The key seems to be to write something.
Perhaps a snowball analogy will work? I take a tiny snowball of words and give it a proverbial roll. Sometimes it sits there and other times it rolls down the hill and turns into a much larger snowball. Other times I get a group of them and build a full snowman.
It’s just this sort of workflow that I was considering when I recently suggested that those using annotation as a classroom social annotation tool, might also consider using it to help students create commonplace books to help students spur their writing. The key is to create small/low initial stakes that have the potential to build up into something bigger. Something akin to the user interface of Twitter (and their tweetstorm functionality). Write a short sentence or two on which you can hit publish, but if the mood strikes, then write another, and another until you’ve eventually gotten to something that could be a blog post (or article). Of course if you do this, you should own it.
This is also the sort of perspective which Sönke Ahrens takes in his excellent book How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers, though there he’s prescribing something for general note taking when I might suggest it’s a prescription for a pedagogy behind living and writing.
This makes me wonder: did blogging die off because the tools changed?
Everyone had their own space on the internet and the internet itself was the medium which opened up the conversation. I could use WordPress while someone else might have been on Blogger, Moveable Type, Live Journal, TypePad, or something they made in HTML themselves.
Now it’s all siloed off into tinier spaces where content is trapped for eyeballs and engagement and there’s not nearly as much space for expression. Some of the conversation is broken up into 280 character expressions on Twitter, some on Instagram, and now people are aggregating content inside Substack. Substack at least has a feed I can subscribe to and a free form box to add a reply.
I appreciate Jeff’s comment about the “flywheel of social media”. We’re definitely going to need something like that to help power any resurgence of the blogosphere. I also like to think of it in the framing of “thought spaces” where the idea of a blog is to give yourself enough space to form a coherent idea and make an actual argument. Doing that is much harder to do on a microblog where the responses are also similarly limited. It just feels so rude to post 250 words in reply to a sentence or two that probably needed more space to express itself too.
I suspect that if we want a real resurgence of thought and discourse online, we’re going to need some new tools to do it. As Friedrich Nietzsche famously conceded to his friend Heinrich Köselitz “You are right — our writing tools take part in the forming of our thoughts.”
It would help if we could get back to the bare metal of the internet in which to freely operate again. Substack at least feels close to that, though it could be much better.
Can we have a conversational medium that isn’t constrained by a handful of corporate silos that don’t allow conversation across boundaries? Can we improve the problems of context collapse we’re seeing in social media?
I’d like to think that some of the building blocks the IndieWeb movement has built might help guide the way. I love their idea of Webmention notifications that allow one site to mention another regardless of the platforms on which they’re built. Their Micropub posting tools abstract away the writing and posting experience to allow you to pick and choose your favorite editor. They’ve got multiple social reader tools to let you follow the people and content you’re interested in and reply to things directly in the reader. I presented a small proof of concept at a recent education conference, for those who’d like to see what that experience looks like today.
Perhaps if more platforms opened up to these ideas and tools, we might be able to return, but with a lot more freedom and flexibility than we had in the nostalgic blogosphere?
Yet, we’ll still be facing the human work of interacting and working together. There are now several magnitudes of order more people online than there were in the privileged days of the blogosphere. We’re still going to need to solve for that. Perhaps if everyone reads and writes from their own home on the web, they’re less likely to desecrate their neighbor’s blog because it sticks to their own identity?
There’s lots of work to be done certainly, but perhaps we’ll get there by expanding things, opening them up, and giving ourselves some more space to communicate?
Wir sind inzwischen alle auch zu Bewohnern dieses “Neulands” Internet geworden. Die meisten von uns sind dort als Mieter unterwegs und posten bei anderen Eigentümern. Wer im Internet eine Domain be…
What does this have to do with learning?
We have always made notes while studying. In the past only for ourselves. Today it is becoming more and more common to share these notes with others, which becomes easy when you take the notes digitally. If many share their thoughts, then I get a lot of suggestions. My development goes faster, see also this blog post about it .
“If I want to work on a new topic, I write a blog post about it.” I’ve heard it from quite a few. This public writing forces me to confidently verify what I have said. After all, I don’t want to embarrass myself. That means I need three times as much time for the blog post as if I just wrote it down for myself. This extra time spent working on the topic is learning time. And when I publish the post, I give others the chance to benefit from it as well – and the chance to receive feedback that will help me advance on the topic.
My contributions can be text contributions, videos, podcasts or slides. I can link to sources. And I can find it again in my domain – even after years. And when I’ve shared it, others can search for it and use it too. ❧
Rough translation via Google Translate ^^
This is a good description about how working in public can be beneficial to oneself, even if no one else is looking.
Annotated on April 11, 2021 at 05:37PM
While going through my Twitter archive, I realised several things which are going to greatly inform the way I write on the web in the future: While linklogging is fun, easy and in many ways the fabric that makes up the internet, it’s existence is fleeting. Maybe that link will remain valid for 10 ...
The nostalgia factor is very valuable to me, but it also means you need an easy means for not only looking back, but regular reminders to do so.
Owning your stuff: hopefully my stance on this is obvious.
I’m not sure I agree so much with the taxonomy stance. I find it helpful to have it for search and review, the tougher part is doing it consistently with terms that are important to you.
ᔥ #indieweb 2021-04-02 ()in
So here they are, my personal rules for blogging.
- Three posts a week, more or less.
- One idea per post. If I find myself launching into another section, cut and paste the extra into a separate draft post, and tie off the original one with the word “Anyway.” Then publish.
- No hedging, no nuance. If I’m getting in a twist about a sentence, take it out.
- Give up on attempting to be right.
- Give up on providing full links and citations.
- Give up on saying anything new. Most people haven’t read my old stuff. Play the hits.
- Give up on trying to be popular. I try not to filter myself based on what I believe will be popular. Some of my favourite posts get ignored. Some posts get popular and I have no idea why. Besides, terrible posts get buried fast if I’m posting three times a week. So post with abandon.
- Give up on trying to be interesting. Readers will come to my site for what’s interesting to me, or not, it’s fine, just say what I think about whatever I’m thinking about.
- But make it work for a general audience.
- Only write what’s in my head at that exact moment. It’s 10x faster.
- If it’s taking too long to write, stop.
- Don’t use a post just to link to something elsewhere. If there’s a point to make, start with that.
- Titles should be descriptive and have the flavour of the post. And rewrite the lede once the post is done so the whole thing gets to the point faster.
- It’s ok not to blog if it feels like a chore.
- Writing is a muscle.
I’ve enjoyed linkblogging. When I read something, I can share the link along with a quote or reflection on how it affected me. It’s a great space to think out loud. ❧
Annotated on August 05, 2020 at 01:51PM
As Austin Kleon notes, blogging is a great way to discover what you have to say. My microblog has given me a chance to have thoughts, and this longer blog has given me a space to figure out what it means–to discover what it is I have to say. In other words, my microblog is where I collect the raw materials; my blog is where I assemble them into questions and, perhaps, answers. It’s a place where I figure out what I really think. ❧
Annotated on August 05, 2020 at 01:54PM
I’m a happy dev, in love with data science that loves to write technical posts about what tech, career and life
If the mainstream media will not host a diversity of opinion, then the nonmainstream needs to pick up the slack. That’s what I’ll be doing next.
We’ll use Zoom for this online meetup (here’s the link to the room which should be active about 15 minutes before we start). We’re planning on using an Etherpad for real-time chat and note taking for the event.
Attendees will be expected to have read and agree to the IndieWeb Code of Conduct which will apply to the meetup.
- Have discussions about A Domain of One’s Own and the independent web;
- Get to know other colleagues in the space;
- Ask colleagues for help/advice on problems or issues you’re having with your domain;
- Find potential collaborators for domains-related projects you’re working on;
- Explore new and interesting ideas about what one can do or accomplish with a personal domain;
- Create or update your domain
- Introductions: short 2 minute introductions of attendees with an optional brief demonstration of something you’ve done on your domain or purpose for which you’re using your domain.
- Group photo for those who wish to participate
- Main meetup: Ideally everyone should bring a topic, demonstration, question, or problem to discuss with the group. Depending on time and interest, we can try to spend 5-10 minutes discussing and providing feedback on each of these. If questions go over this time limitation, we can extend the conversation in smaller groups as necessary after the meetup.
To RSVP to the meetup, please do one of the following:
- Make a comment to indicate your attendance below;
- Tweet your RSVP reply to this Tweet;
- Comment your RSVP on the Reclaim Hosting Community post about the event;
- RSVP to the
- Publish an indie RSVP on your own website/domain and send a webmention to
While the time frame for this inaugural meetup may work best for some in the Americas, everyone with interest is most welcome. If there are others in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, or other locales who are interested, do let us know what dates/times might work for you in the future and we can try to organize a time to maximize some attendance there. I’m happy to help anyone who’d like to take the leadership of other time zones or locales to leverage some of the resources of the IndieWeb community to assist in starting future meetings to cover other areas of the world.
🎉 Invitations 🎉
Tim Owens, Aaron Davis, Cathie LeBlanc, Kartik Prabhu, Amber Case, Amy Guy, Greg McVerry, William Ian O’Byrne, Jim Groom, Kimberly Hirsh, John Johnston, Robin DeRosa, Audrey Watters, Ken Bauer, Will Monroe, Jeremy Dean, Nate Angell, Jon Udell, Adam Procter, Amy Guy, Kris Shaffer, Anelise H. Shrout, John Johnston, Mark Grabe, Rick Wysocki, Doug Holton, Jeffrey Keefer, Rayna M. Harris, Davey Moloney, Vicki Boykis, John Carlos Baez, Dan Scott, Taylor Jadin, Kathleen Fitzpatrick (mb), Blair MacIntyre (mb), Doug Belshaw, Adam Procter, Dan Cohen (mb), Dave Cormier, Scott Gruber, Kay Oddone, Kin Lane, Martha Burtis, Lee Skallerup Bessette, Adam Croom, Sean Michael Morris, Jesse Stommel, Cassie Nooyen, Stephen Downes, Ben Werdmüller, Erin Jo Richey, Jack Jamieson, Grant Potter, Ryan Boren (mb), Paul Hibbits, Maha Bali, Alan Levine, John Stewart, Teodora Petkova, Lora Taub-Pervizpour, Clint Lalonde, Clint Lalonde, Sonja Burrows, Jonathan Poritz, Chris Long, Mo Pelzel, Michelle S. Hagerman, Anne-Marie Scott, Tim Clarke, Amy Collier, Laura Pasquini, Martin Hawksey, Zach Whalen, Daniel Lynds, Tom Woodward, Mark A. Matienzo, Laura Gibbs, Autumn Caines, Chris Lott, Jess Reingold, Terry Green, Erin Rose Glass, Trip Kirkpatrick, Meredith Fierro, Lauren Brumfield, Helen DeWaard, Keegan Long-Wheeler, Irene Stewart, Christina Hendricks, Bill Kronholm, Xinli Wang, Tineke D’Haeseleer, Martin Weller, Jeremy Felt, Jane Van Galen, Tanis Morgan, Library Carpentry
Know someone who would be interested in joining? Please forward this event, or one of the syndicated copies (linked below) to them on your platform or modality of choice.
Thoughts on blogging