Paolo Amoroso's Journal

blogging

Over the three years I ran my discontinued Blogger blog I published 146 posts. In just seven months I published 151 posts on this new blog hosted at Write.as, which drives home the superiority of Write.as as a frictionless blogging platform.

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The conventional blogging wisdom is to address the readers as you and avoid writing in first person. This is supposedly friendlier and makes the readers feel at the center of attention.

I use you sparingly. For example, when I write how-to or instructional material, ask something, or try to persuade. Most of the times I write in first person. It's a natural way of sharing with fellow tech enthusiasts my direct experience and projects, the steps I take, the thought processes I go through, the setbacks.

There's another reason I rarely address readers as you.

You may come across as a marketing or SEO tool. The insincere intention of pleasing and luring readers to sell something — products, ads, attention — and monetize blogs.

My readers can cut through the BS and know when I feels right.

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Back in the early days of blogging, the tech press bashed RSS out of existence as it was supposedly too complex for ordinary users. To the point new bloggers don't even know what RSS is, some recent blogging platforms don't support RSS, and new personal and corporate blogs sometimes don't provide RSS feeds.

But if your blog doesn't have RSS or Atom, you shoot yourself in the foot.

You completely give up control of your traffic to search engines and social platforms. Along with email newsletters, RSS is among the few options remaining to bloggers for establishing a direct communication channel and relationship with readers. With no gatekeepers.

The readers who subscribe to your RSS feed always see all of your posts. No matter what Google, Facebook, or Twitter decide.

What if only a minority of readers subscribe to your RSS feed? Is it still worth it?

They are the readers you want. The superfans who share your work. They may be bloggers themselves and link to your posts from theirs, or enable other opportunities such as guest blogging or podcast interviews.

Those few RSS subscribers are much more engaged and valuable than the many social media users who don't read or click links.

I've seen two primary objections to RSS feeds.

The first is, if readers get the content in a feed without visiting the website, blogs can’t be monetized with ads. Aside from the growing use of ad blockers, bloggers can provide partial RSS feeds that contain only snippets of the posts. This way the readers have to visit the blogs to access the full text.

Another objection is RSS feeds make web scraping and content stealing easier. This is a legitimate concern. But, if a blog is valuable enough, the lack of an RSS feed is only a minor inconvenience for determined scrapers.

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I discontinued my old Blogger blog and, going forward, I'll post only to this new blog hosted at Write.as. After initially meaning to maintain both, I had been considering mothballing the old blog for months. The joy of using Write.as finally drove home I can't stand Blogger anymore.

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The Python feed of my old blog Moonshots Beyond the Cloud has long been aggregated by Planet Python. But I'm no longer going to update that blog, so I removed the old feed from Planet Python and submitted the Python feed of my new blog, Paolo Amoroso's Journal.

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One reason I chose Write.as as my blogging platform is great support for technical writing with Markdown and MathJax.

I use Markdown all the time but haven't played with MathJax much, which I may need for some occasional simple math. So this post is a quick overview of how I write MathJax and what it renders like.

Editing and previewing MathJax

I love Write.as, but it has a few rough edges that introduce friction when writing MathJax.

There's no post preview and the only workaround, publishing an anonymous post and moving it to my blog when satisfied, doesn't render MathJax. This forces to go blind. Until a post shows up on the blog and I can fix any formatting issues, in the few minutes since publication and prior to the newsletter and the RSS feed entry going out.

I came up with an alternate workflow. I edit the math in the Interactive LaTeX Editor. This nice little tool supports MathJax, renders as I type, and has no ads.

Once the LaTeX source looks good, I copy the code from the LaTeX editor and paste it into the Write.as editor. If some LaTeX symbols have meaning in Markdown, such as _, *, and \, I have to go the extra step of escaping them with \.

At this point I'm ready to publish the post and tweak the math as described earlier.

MathJax examples

Time to kick the tires.

Let's start with some inline big \(O\) notation, say an algorithm that's \(O(n \ln n)\). I also throw in some binary numbers such as \(10010101_2\) and \(11010111_2\), and a simple calculation like \(2^{16} = 65536\).

Here is a displayed logical operation:

$$00000101_2 \wedge 00001100_2 \Rightarrow 00000100_2$$

The quadratic formula renders like this:

$$x = {-b \pm \sqrt{b^2-4ac} \over 2a}$$

Finally, the standard deviation:

$$\sigma = \sqrt{ \frac{1}{N} \sum_{i=1}^N (x_i -\mu)^2}$$

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I'm reposting here some content I published elsewhere, such as this and this. My journal will be my primary blog, so I'm consolidating here some of my other material. Which is an opportunity to revisit, filter, and revise old content.

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Write.as is such a low-friction blogging platform it enables me to blog daily. I love sharing my tech projects and experiences, and I can squeeze some writing into pretty much any time snippet.

But life threw at me something I struggle to handle.

The health of my old mom got worse quickly and she became no longer self-sufficient, requiring me to care for her continuously and full time. I love mom so much I even resumed using WhatsApp, I can do all it takes. But the current situation is demanding and exhausting, keeping me at the edge of burnout.

It's not so much I have little time to write. It's I don't have time to work on the projects and stuff I blog about.

I'm posting much less, but I still update this blog. I need it.

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Simon Wilson celebrated 20 years of blogging by featuring his most influential posts, describing his publishing platforms and tools, and discussing the evolution of his blog's design. Simon's software development career is equally impressive as he was a co-creator of the Django Python web framework.

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While I decide what to do with my old blog, I turned off commenting. I have always moderated comments and never let any junk show up, but these days the volume of comment spam is annoying enough to no longer justify the effort. Besides, socials killed blog commenting anyway and I haven't been getting any legitimate ones for years.

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