Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Thoughts on Blogging, 2020 Edition

I found this great article the other week about Why You Should Start A Blog Right Now.

The whole thing is absolutely worth a read, but my favorite part is at the start where he enumerates a list of reasons why he wrote particular posts, and it sent me down a rabbit hole again of evaluating why I write on this blog, and whether it was an endeavor worth continuing.

Presumably, having a blog has a lot of possible benefits, but the one important for me personally are:

  • it helps me clarify step through my own thoughts and understand my own thinking
  • it serves as an archive of my state of mind at the time
  • it helps me improve my own writing

Presumably, you can also use a blog to advance your career, build a brand/reputation, finding an audience, etc. And those are fine, but for me they are only incidentals, nice-to-haves. Fundamentally, I still always write for myself first.

If that’s the case, I said to myself, why write in public at all? If those three reasons are the most important, then something like private writing should already suffice. I even asked my self the very same question back in 2005 at the end of this post, and at that time I had no answer. Today I do.

I write in public because we as humans have so much in common, even if we aren’t aware of it. And while writing down one’s own thoughts or opinions or everyday happenings may seem like it would be entirely uninteresting to the average reader, there will always be some aspect of your stories that will resonate with someone else, somewhere, because of that shared human experience.

These days, everyone can have a platform for writing, whether it’s in one of the social media silos or your own site like this one, so the whole “writing in public” thing isn’t so novel anymore. But even in this age, not everyone chooses to participate in social media, not everyone tweets or posts all the time, and that’s fine. I can accept that writing in public isn’t for everyone. But to have that voice, that ability to express yourself and share your human experience with others, to have stories to share and advice to dispense and objections to raise - to have it and not to exercise it in a meaningful way? For me that seems a waste. And so I write.


Well, I actually haven’t been writing much the past couple of weeks, aside from the weeknotes. I pumped out a couple of longish and in my mind pretty good posts early in the month (Tales of the Old Web, Burnout), but after that I found myself struggling to put some new ones together. Somehow in my mind I became trapped in the idea that I needed to have these long, profound, well-researched essays as posts. Browsing blogs like Alexey Guzey’s (author of the post linked at the start of this one) certainly hasn’t helped - on his notes page he mentions that some of his better posts take upwards of 100+ hours to write.

I guess I kind of fell into the trap of comparison and wanted to be writing thesis papers? Except that’s not really my style. I can probably churn out some longer pieces if they’ve been formulating in my head for a while, but for the most part, my regular blogging consists of thoughts-in-the-moment, a snapshot of where my thinking is at that time, to be built upon and to be evolved later on. And I think that’s fine, I think everyone has their own unique writing/blogging style and voice that they need to develop to see what works best for them. Maybe as time goes on, I will tend more towards longer-form posts, but for now I have to listen to my own advice and remember that not all posts have to be profound.


For the past few years or so, and especially since I got interested in this Indieweb stuff I’ve also been more on the lookout for interesting blogs to read. Personal blogs, none of that “professional blogger” crap. There’s still a lot of interesting sites out there, a lot of them long-running ones even. With the rise of social media silos, having personal websites and blogs hasn’t really gotten mainstream attention, but there’s still plenty of people writing out there. I think I’ve added more blogs to my RSS reader over the past 12 months than I have over the preceding 5ish years or so.

It saddens me a bit that among people of my cohort I am one among very few who are (still) actively blogging. I have a large folder of RSS feeds named “people I know”, many of them have tried blogging at some point or another, and all of those links are inactive or even inaccessible. Friends: please write more! You can revive your old sites if you like, you don’t even have to explain!

I still have a bunch of reorganizing my RSS feeds to do, but I’ve managed to put enough feeds into a folder called “blogroll” that seems suitable for sharing, so I created a new Blogroll page where you can see some of the blogs I follow. Very few of these are people I know IRL, mostly I just stumbled upon their blogs via some method or other. Many of them are tech-related though not all of them are. All are reasonably active. I thought about tagging or categorizing them somehow, but it’s rude to put people into boxes, so maybe it’s rude to do that for their websites too, just let people be people and let blogs be blogs.

I used to maintain an older blogroll back in the day, but it seems that has already been lost to the dustbin of history, so this one is brand new and built from scratch. (If I find the older one, I might put it on that page too as a record of history.) As with many other things on the site, the blogroll is perpetually under renovation, so if you find (or have) a personal blog that you think I might find interesting, feel free to tell me about it and maybe I’ll add it there!

(Technical note: The blogroll listing is automatically imported from a JSON-formatted OPML file. I got the idea from this post by jlelse, and coincidentally he is also on the blogroll.)


Me: I’m having trouble writing long-form posts recently.

Also me: Hey, I wrote a thousand words on blogging without thinking about it!

See Also

Comments

paul on 2020-02-26 15:47:09: Cheers! No obligation, obviously - bit would be very happy to be added. Just wanted to doff my cap to you as I’ve been enjoying your posts lately.
paul on 2020-02-26 15:48:21:

Hi Roy! This post (and a few more of yours) have been fuelling some of my own thoughts on blogging. Thanks!

paulcapewell.com/2020/02/26/tho…

Roy Tang on 2020-02-26 15:48:28: thanks for the feedback! I’ll probably be adding you to the blogroll in an update as well, soonish