Writing

Survey results: Blog post format preferences

I can never decide which blog post format I should use on my home page(s). Should I use full posts so that all of the content is available by simply scrolling? Should I shorten each post to just a title and a short summary, making it look more consistent and easier to scan? Or maybe I should only include a list of titles, and let people dig in based on that.

To find out what readers actually preferred, I asked the following question on Mastodon and Micro.blog:

When visiting a blog (not via RSS), which layout do you prefer?

  • Full posts
  • Titles and brief excerpt
  • Titles only

I received 64 replies. Here are the results:

Results of an informal web poll asking which post format is preferred

I wasn’t surprised by these results, other than the Micro.blog responses leaned quite heavily toward full posts, while Mastodon was split closely between full posts and excerpts.

This helps me with how I present posts on my blog. I will continue using full posts, but I’ll truncate longer articles with a “read more” link to reduce the amount of scrolling needed.

Thanks to everyone who responded!

Blog posts: Macro, Micro, (and Nano?)

I remain incapable of consolidating my blogs, social media, etc.

I’m realizing that I have three types of blog posts, “macro”, “micro”, and “nano”.

Normal long-form posts are “macro” posts. Shorter posts or images with commentary are “micro” posts. Then there are the little snippets and random thoughts I can’t help blurting out for some reason. Those are “nano” posts.

I could put them all at baty.net and be done with it, but I have yet to find a way to do this using WordPress (or Hugo, for that matter). I never like the way themes render all three types.

I thought I could do macro posts at baty.net and the rest at jack.micro.blog, but for some reason, I hesitate to post my little nonsense thoughts there because it feels weird having them saved as “real” blog posts. I can’t explain it, but those little “nano” posts make more sense to me on an actual social network like Mastodon.

This morning, I spun up a new Mastodon instance as my “official” social media presence. I wanted my own domain, and baty.social is as good as any. It’s eponymous, short, and I’d already paid for it a few months ago. So now I’m posting the nano posts at @jack@baty.social.

Micro.blog can act as an account on the Fediverse, but I think I prefer using Mastodon for that.

I’m not sure that there’s a meaningful difference between micro and nano posts, so this is an experiment. If it continues to feel right, great. If not, I’ll try something else.

My posts…what goes where?

Am I overthinking it? Of course I’m overthinking it.

Let’s face it, I enjoy trying different ways of publishing and tinkering with the tools for doing so. Once in a while, I spread myself a little too thin and consider drastic consolidation. You know, the dream of One True Blog™.

In an effort to figure this out, I thought I’d write down the types of content I post most frequently, and where that content might belong.

Continue reading…

Jane Kenyon’s advice for writers

Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.

Jane Kenyon, “A Hundred White Daffodils”

It behooves me, Paul

If it behooves you, instead of thinking any more about Twitter—hit us with some PDFs, some incomprehensible sociology, a fact about your town, some poetry no one cares about, political theory that will never land, obscure social history, climate links, math things, some tech so obscure 20 people use it. We want your inner noise. Just push the gas on your own ephemeralism and launch us into the future.

Paul Ford, Mastodon

I feel like taking Paul’s advice and posting fast and furious on my One True Blog™. I’d like to anoint baty.net as that blog. Hang on.

Bring back personal blogging

In the beginning, there were blogs, and they were the original social web. We built community. We found our people. We wrote personally. We wrote frequently. We self-policed, and we linked to each other so that newbies could discover new and good blogs.

I want to go back there.

Monique Judge, Bring back personal blogging, The Verge

Me too! I never left, really, but I would love to read more personal blogs again. Lots more.

Ulysses for posting to WordPress?

Ulysses is a nice app, but it’s been a while since I’ve used it regularly. We never really clicked. There’s something about the editor and its variation of Markdown that felt off, somehow. What I’ve wished for was iA Writer’s editor attached to Ulysses’ library.

I enjoy checking it new features in Ulysses when updates are released. My license is part of the SetApp subscription so there’s no cost for keeping Ulysses around.

One of the things bringing me back to Ulysses today is the new Projects features. It’s like “hoisting” in a decent outliner. Or narrowing a buffer in Emacs. I like the focus it promises.

But the reason I’m typing this in Ulysses today is that I kind of hate writing in the WordPress editor. Gutenberg has come a long way, and is very powerful, but it’s still annoying for actually writing. If I want to drop in and resize an image or include a quote with citation, Gutenberg is great. If I simply want to lay down some text, it sucks. Whatever nits I have to pick with Ulysses’ editor are meaningless compared to the annoyances I have with WordPress. So here we are.

Other than the editor, I’m still happy with my recent switch to WordPress. If I can find a pleasant way to write for WordPress, I may stick with it.

Matt Mullenweg on giant header images

Can we all agree that giant per-post image headers look terrible on most blogs? It’s been a curse of default WP themes past few years, too. We need it to be easier to have posts without image headers and even without titles.

Matt Mullenweg, Twitter

Yes, we can all agree.

Many of the responses in that thread argue that posts need giant images for SEO. Possibly, but the theme could, like mine does, allow for featured images but doesn’t display them. That way the image is in the metadata for SEO, but doesn’t force me to scroll past 500KB of unnecessary, unrelated image data to read a 200-word post. Go Matt!

And building WordPress to be less dependent upon post titles would be a great thing. Let us reel in our social graphs if we want to. And just like with images, the theme could simply hide the image from the viewer, but include them in the OpenGraph data. Everyone wins!

Say vs. Share

I’ve maintained a “daily notes” blog in one form or another for years. The current iteration is at baty.blog and is managed using Tinderbox. It’s like an online journal. It’s a pleasure to write in, and for me, a pleasure to read.

But sometimes I wonder whether I need a second blog for short, “micro” posts. I could instead put them here at baty.net, but I’ve never been able to wrangle WordPress into doing that properly. Or perhaps they could go on the wonderful micro.blog, Tumblr, or even Mastodon.

A few days ago I decided to try using a self-hosted Mastodon (actually GoToSocial) instance for short, frequent daily posts. That’s what it’s for, right? I installed GoToSocial on one of my servers and began posting. I immediately didn’t like it. The feed on my one-person instance is mostly empty but feels like it shouldn’t be. It’s hard to explain, but it felt wrong somehow. It felt like a social network comprised of one individual. Also, it looks horrible.

What about my usual Mastodon account at fosstodon.org? Why not post there? The timeline is busy and I don’t even have to bother maintaining anything. Fosstodon doesn’t work because it’s not mine. I want the sort of stuff I’m writing on my daily blog to be entirely under my control.

All of this reminded me that there’s a difference between the things I want to say and the things I want to share. There’s a lot of overlap, but the distinction is important. There are things I want to say out loud, but not necessarily to a room full of people. I don’t mind if someone reads them, but I don’t want to force them into anyone’s social feeds. If someone wants to read them via RSS, of course, that’s cool. I prefer that most of what I post be read via pull rather than push, if you know what I mean.

So I guess for now I’ll continue to post the things I want to say, to baty.blog. The things I want to share will go to Mastodon. Some will go both places. I hope that’s OK.

It was meant to be a workbench but has become a writing desk

My “workbench”

I put together a workbench in the basement after moving into my wife’s house. It has all the things I might need for minor repairs or electronics projects. You know, in case I ever feel the urge to fix or build something.

I often imagine myself as someone handy with tools. Someone who is not just creative, but can actually implement his ideas. Or someone who can repair things. It’s fun to imagine myself as that person, but I am not that person.

Since the “maker” urge hasn’t arrived, instead of using my workbench as a workbench, I’ve been using it as a standup writing desk. I have my notebooks and paper-related doodads within reach on a shelf to my left. My pens and stamps and pencil sharpener are on another shelf in front of me. It’s working out well, so I don’t mind that it isn’t used for what I intended.