This Is How You Write

When you first start out writing anything it’s daunting. It feels like it’s one of those things that anyone can do, but instantly feels like it’s something you can’t do very well. The reasons it feels like that is a complicated thing to work out but there are millions of people ready to tell you you’re wrong —- and that doesn’t help.

There are courses all over the internet to teach you how, as well as loads people to pick faults in the way you do it. To tell you how they do, and why their opinion matters to you. Why you should listen to them, what keywords to use and the types of images you should use. You know the old phrase about opinions the fact everyone’s got one. Well even more people have them about what you do with your blog.

Blogging can be very personal, and many people treat it as such. However, there’s no need to get bogged down in the minute details. Extraordinarily little resistance to getting your words out to people, and even less reasons to fret over what everyone else writes.

While you are worrying about everyone else’s opinions on the correct way to do things, you’re not writing. While you’re casting aspersions on other people that do not do things what you consider is the correct way, you’re not writing either. There is enough room on the internet for everyone to publish, and not feel like they don’t fit. There is no way you should be writing, no perfect blogging for you to be doing, and no advise that needs giving.

Just write and publish however you want to. Sit in the chair and do it.

What Is Your Blog?

When I first started writing on the internet it was a weird time. I wasn’t the first to do it, but I did zero research and just decided that was what I wanted to do. Without any clue how to use WordPress, or any CMS of that matter, I would write HTML pages and link them all together. A static site of sorts, but one I was prepared to put loads of work in because I wanted to be a ‘writer’. I wanted to do all the things that the technology writers I looked up to did and access all those sweet gadgets in the process.

I agree that there is nothing wrong with having hopes and ambitions, a boy can dream as they say. Well, I was a fully grown adult at this time, but I still had a dream. I bounced around some tech news sites, publishing loads of articles, at some points 2-3 a day — all for free. I thought this was the way to make it to the big time. It was, but I was looking at it all wrong.


I desired a future where my words were read with the interest with which I consumed others. Poignant, and sought out by readers that valued what I had to say on the matter. I treated my blog as such, constantly fretting that it wasn’t good enough, the design didn’t live up to the modern web and worrying that I didn’t produce weight content. My blog needed to be what I wanted my future to look like, a digital version of “dress for the job you want”.

The trouble was I wasn’t particularly good at it. I didn’t have hot takes enough to drive a following and I couldn’t follow through on my desire to pump out content. So as my desire and drive faded, the thoughts towards my blog began to wane. What I wanted my blog to be changed, and although I tried to rekindle that romance last year, it is now something made just for me. A reflection of myself.

It has errors, terrible old posts, and more than a few takes that turned out to be completely wrong – and that’s ok. My blog is me, I have an edit button, and a delete button, but it goes me something that nothing outside of blogging can give me. It is a digital extension of all the weird stuff that floats around in my brain. It’s my blog.

Knowing what you are and what you need

Jacob Kastrenakes on Twitters new features:

Direct payment tools have become increasingly important for creators in particular in recent years. Patreon has been hugely successful, and other platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and even GitHub have all launched direct creator payment features.

Growth growth growth. That’s the name of the game in big tech and there is no room for excuses. Instead of developing and building in what your platform offers, the current state of play is stuffing everything that is good about other platforms into your own.

There is nothing inherently wrong with, cough, borrowing features as long as you know what you are and where you’re going. What becomes apparent very quickly is when the borrowing becomes desperate and this seems like one of those times. Here’s Jacob on the second feature Twitter wants to implement.

Groups have been a huge success for Facebook (and a huge moderation problem, too), and they could be a particularly helpful tool on Twitter, since the service’s open-ended nature can make it difficult for new users to get started on the platform.

Whilst the getting paid for your tweets sounds understandable, if a little far fetched. If you needed any more proof that Twitter has no idea what actually makes Twitter different from others, it’s the choice to bring closed groups into an open platform.

Whilst Twitters issues are huge and never ending, and attempts to make it more community based could
be a huge positive step. Groups are not the way to do it. This limits reach, closes open discussions down and separates Twitter into silos that go against its very nature. The constant, always on, and open nature of Twitter is what attracts its users to love it most. It feels more personal than curated posts on other platforms. Twitter doesn’t need to be more Facebook, particularly at a time like this.

Of course neither of these have launched yet, and there is no date for either of these things, so I’m reluctant to make any huge sweeping judgements, but all of the features that seem to come from Twitter just don’t seem like they come from Twitter.

Perhaps shareholders need to see some return and stuffing in features that work in other places is what they demand. Who knows, but they certainly don’t seem to know what Twitter is, or what it needs.

Not Missing The Newsletter Boom

Andy Nicolaides on the new ‘blogging’ in Hey

One of the guiding principles of Hey, to me, seemed to be some simplicity and relaxing of email norms such as inbox zero and the like, so a blogging platform in an email service does, at first glance, seem a bit odd. It is, however, as I said a really interesting approach and idea and it’s something I’d definitely jump on trying if it does every become a shipping product.

Hitting the nail here on the weird dichotomy of the new feature teased by Hey.

It’s both a completely stupid idea, but also one that is very interesting indeed. One of the things I enjoy about my own newsletter is because I write it like an email to all the subscribers and not a blog post like some do.

This new feature in Hey, not yet even announced for users, will allow readers to subscribe to future posts in email or by RSS. Making it not really a blogging option, but instead a really interesting take on the newsletter boom and one I will definitely keep an eye on.

It’s Easy To Blame Facebook

Casey Newton on Facebook and Google vs Australia wrote

It’s worth mentioning that any Australian publisher aggrieved by an unfair exchange of value with Google here could opt out of search results at any time by adding one line of HTML to their website. But almost none of them do because traffic from Google drives significant advertising and subscription revenue to them.

On the news that Facebook blocked all news in Australia after refusing to make a deal, it’s easy to blame the big blue F and move on. Calls for people to delete their accounts once again rung out on, well everywhere. But the fact of the matter is that while there are a huge number of reasons to ditch your account, this issue isn’t one of them.

The banning of news sharing was miss guided and stupid, but this Australian ruling threatens one of the most open principles of the web. The sharing of a hyperlink and it appearing on other websites.

Displaying text, and the huge boxes on Google searches aside. The sharing of links to other peoples content is the back bone of many a website. Where exactly does it end? Do I have to now pay The Verge for writing a link post?

The absurdity of these types of moves that keep big media companies in good stock will now continue around the globe. No doubt Facebook et al will make some stupid responses, but it’s far too easy to blame them for everything when in reality, as pointed out by Casey, this move is exactly the right one for all of us.

I Still Don’t Know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

I posted this very tongue in cheek recently. A brief thought that passed through my mind whilst walking my dog and listening to Break The Twitch. Weirdly the act of posting it made that thought stick around longer than it would have, and it is a useful thing to remember.

In my early teens I wanted to be a teacher, and only when I did some work experience and found out what it was actually like, were the rose-tinted glasses knocked from my eyes. It’s fair to say that I left University with not a clue what to do with the rest of my life, and worked retail for far too many years. From that day to this I have never even considered my job as my calling, but it is definitely something that I enjoy doing and will continue to do as long as possible.

I find it quite strange, but admirable, that people know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their life from a very early age. Discovering a passion without even looking and locking in their ambitions to their laser focus.

As the old saying goes “Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life”. Of course, this presumes that the route to finding exactly what you love and making it your job is one that is straight forward and easy to navigate. You see, your passions take time to discover, and often need some effort to discover. As Stephanie O’Connell says, “You’re not born with it”.

Passion doesn’t arrive while waiting for inspiration to strike, it’s uncovered through action and work. Think of it like falling in love. You don’t just sit at home and decide you’re going to fall in love with a certain person, you go out and share different experiences with different people until you do. – Stephanie O’Connell

There is also a big presumption in this saying that you can turn your passion into a job that supports you. That can be a pretty big ask from some pursuits, and presumes you have the skills to ‘sell it’. Hustle and grind are words we see banded around as if everyone can do anything with enough work, but what if you just don’t have the skills or the ability to do it.

There is something to be said about hard work and dedication, but of course ability needs an environment to be able to flourish. For every person that beats all the odds and lives the dream, there are millions grinding away and doing what it is that they need to do. Or simply cannot get to where they need to be to realise their passion.

In my mid-twenties I decided I wanted to write. In my mid-thirties I decided I wanted to learn to code and improve my design skills. Perhaps in my forties there might be something else and I still don’t consider myself anything like the grown ups my teachers told me I had to become. There is something quite freeing of admitting this to myself and I wish I knew this earlier in life.

I wonder how many people still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. I just know what I am right now, and that’s ok.

What’s Essential To You?

Matt Birchler nailing it once again:

One man’s bullshit is another man’s essential features, but for me, Ghost does away with all the stuff I don’t need and excels at what I do need.

This can be expanded to soooooo many things that people get upset about. I’m the person Matt knows personally and moved to Ghost. While I moved back to WordPress for other reasons a year later I get exactly what Matt is saying here.

So many of the things I wanted from my blog in the form of webmentions and indieweb things are completely BS to most people. But I wanted them so they were essential to me.

Your blogging platform is a tool and will depend on what you want, and what you enjoy using. The most important thing is writing on the things!

Webmentions To Avoid Twitter

Perhaps avoid is the wrong word, but we’ve all felt that annoyance that we opened the app to send a quick tweet and all of a sudden time has disappeared. There are a number of ways to avoid this and the Twitter muscle memory that goes with it, but getting feedback from my blog posts is still an important loop for me to fill.

So, the indieweb comes to the rescue and provides much of what I seek through webmentions. By using Brid.gy I can receive a webmention to my WordPress blog whenever someone likes or replies to my post. I can check these every so often, or set it up pretty easily to get an email if someone replies.

All of these responses poll through Bridgy every so often, and then if a link is found that accepts web mentions, it is forwarded to my WordPress Blog.

After me approving them, likes and comments show up as native comments, with avatar and a link straight to the tweet.

It is an elegant solution collecting feedback on your work, and not having to check and reply to things.

Replying to a web mention

If the reply or wingback is from a page that supports webmentions I can reply to it straight from my blogs comments section. For example, when my post appears on micro.blog and someone replies, I can click reply in the comments and it replies straight back to them on micro.blog as if I was using the website.

Unfortunately, nothing exists to the do the same on Twitter so if I need to reply I have to head over to Twitter. But I can got straight to the tweet with a click and reply easily.

This has helped to avoid these rabbit holes I disappeared down and made me a bit happier the times I did visit Twitter to scroll through.

Writing For Yourself And Growth

Chris Hannah on blog growth

That made me think, if money isn’t going to be a significant factor in any decision, and I have no desire to write for a specific audience, then I may as well just write for myself. Then if people like what I write about, then great, and if not then it doesn’t particularly matter.

I’ve been banging on about this for a while, but not taking my own advice (I’m good at that). Still trying to build something that works, still seeking those numbers. When in reality it’s not what I want.

If growth is your game, find your niche and do that, but it seems like a pretty boring writing life to me. I’d rather write what I want, when I want and not worry about it.

Matt Goes Back to the Mac? Sorta.

Matt Birchler on his purchase of a MacBook Air:

Next up is figuring out an angle to talk about this machine, because it’s great and I want to shout about it from the rooftops.

I’m going to use it a bit more than normal over the next week or so because it’s new and shiny. Maybe I’ll leave my iPad for good because of how good it is…but that’s not likely 😛

Matt does these posts every now and again that sum up why he’s done something. And at first glance this post seems like a bash the iPad post. But it does a great job of summing up the reasons for using a Mac – and I agree with all of them.

While the iPad can do a lot of great things, editing video is not one of them. Lumia fusion is ok, but missing so many things that both speed up workflow and make editing much easier. If you make an iPad app you must cater to touch input and that doesn’t work all the time, especially when you have complex features and menus 2>3 levels deep.

I can see a world where iOS and Mac have a lot of cross over but distinctive traits that make them great at specific things. Theres still something holding the iPad back for some things and that’s ok. Let’s not squeeze things into holes they are not designed to fill, but embrace them because of what they are made for.