“Redesigning your blog” in 2016 is an anachronism. Like tweaking your Gopher presence or upgrading your ham radio, even talking about blogging feels like a throwback — an exercise in nostalgia for an independent web whose time has passed.
The death of blogging was foretold almost every year since its inception. Greg Knauss was ahead of the curve, arguing blogging would be a short-lived fad three months after Blogger launched in 1999.
But I think Jason Kottke nailed it back in 2013.
Sometime in the past few years, the blog died. In 2014, people will finally notice. Sure, blogs still exist, many of them are excellent, and they will go on existing and being excellent for many years to come. But the function of the blog, the nebulous informational task we all agreed the blog was fulfilling for the past decade, is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs.
If you have any doubt that blogs are dead, here’s a fun thought experiment: name a notable independent, single-author blog that launched in the last two or three years. I can’t think of one. Can you?
There are undoubtedly new blogs starting, and many more happily spinning along in various niches, but they’re not really part of the cultural conversation anymore.
This is blogging in 2016.
— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) September 20, 2016
I’m not a big fan of nostalgia. There’s stuff I love about the past, but I generally think things are more interesting now than ever.
More people than ever before are able to express themselves on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Medium, YouTube, Pinterest, and countless other social platforms. All of that is great.
But there a few reasons why I’m sad about the decline of independent blogging, and why I think they’re still worth fighting for.
Ultimately, it comes down to two things: ownership and control.
Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine. Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine a post-Verizon Yahoo selling off Tumblr. Medium keeps pivoting, trying to find a successful revenue model. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.
Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to a phone company. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed. Nobody except me can change the URL structure, breaking 14 years of links to content on the web.
But the ecosystem for independent publications is fundamentally broken. Getting discovered, building a readership, and profiting from your work as an independent writer are all much, much harder than they used to be.
Needless to say, I have thoughts about all of these things.
It feels dire, but there are bright lights out there—writers trying new things and finding an audience on their own terms—and new experiments worth trying. More about that soon.
So I redesigned my blog. I’ve written before about how blogging changed my life, and I still feel like there’s interesting potential in this medium.
It’s given me exposure, a place to share my projects and crazy experimentation with technology. It’s created new opportunities for me, directly or indirectly responsible for every major project I’ve gotten involved in. It’s a place to play and experiment with ideas, some of which led to big breakthroughs and passions. And it connected me to people who cared about the things I did, many of whom became lifelong friends.
After 14 years of blogging, I switched from MovableType to WordPress. The design is finally responsive, though pretty minimalist for now with lots of rough edges. It took some effort, but I preserved the links to everything I’ve ever written—472 posts and 15,891 links.
The RSS feeds should redirect appropriately, though inevitably marking everything as new because I couldn’t migrate GUIDs. (Just mark everything as read if you’re using a feedreader. Sorry about that.) Hopefully, I’m not interrupting the various network of Twitter bots, feedreaders, and IFTTT rules that rely on it.
Some stuff is broken, and there’s a long laundry list of stuff I want to fix and add.
It’s under construction, a work in progress — like me and the rest of the web. Thanks for sticking around.