Paolo Amoroso's Journal

blogging

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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Thanks tmo for the shout-out to my journal in his blogroll. Check it out, there are good blogs I didn't know about.

When I blog, I post mostly for publishing a record of my notes and projects I can reference later. Although I do every effort for creating interesting or helpful content, I write with not much expectation of being read, as I'm used to the typical platform algorithms burying me and not bringing many readers.

So it's really rewarding when an actual person reads my blog and finds it interesting enough to recommend it. This is why I appreciate tmo's mention so much.

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The more I journal with Write.as here, the more I consider abandoning my Blogger blog. Blogger introduces friction, is inflexible, has a stale design, and Google isn't likely to develop it further.

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I have been blogging every day for the past month.

Not that I set any goals, it just happened. When I started my journal, I signed up with Write.as after extensively researching a blogging platform. To reduce the friction between ideas and posts I wanted a Markdown-based, lightweight blogging platform with good support for technical writing.

It turns out Write.as has such low friction it enables and encourages me to write. I ended up doing it daily without plans or deliberate effort.

Up to a few months ago I wouldn't have believed I could do it. On my main blog I almost never posted more than a couple of times per week and usually less. I sent out my old newsletter once per week, and focused on curation rather than original content because I felt I couldn't sustain anything more frequent.

Write.as made it possible to produce that much original writing. I'll definitely take breaks, but this one-month milestone hints at a solid trend.

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I'm going to use Twitter less and focus on my journal and blog.

After over a dozen years on Twitter, I hit a growth ceiling: my follower count is flat and I'm invisible. Despite the occasional viral tweet, I get less than a hundred impressions and nearly no engagement per tweet.

I tried posting text, threads, media, links, replies, mentions, quote-tweets, lists, the works. Nothing makes a difference, no matter how good my content is.

The algorithms just don't like me and bury my tweets. Fair enough.

On platforms with a level playing field, such as RSS aggregators, I get an order of magnitude more visibility and engagement. After less than a month, my journal gets roughly the same views as after over a dozen years on Twitter.

I'll continue using Twitter as a source of content and discussion. But tweeting is a waste of time as nobody sees my content.

Instead, I'm doubling down on my existing blog and my new journal, where I post about the same interests I cover on Twitter.

I left the links to my journal and blog in my Twitter profile. I'd share them there, but social platforms did an effective job conditioning users not to escape their walled gardens and explore the open web, so Twitter would bury my link tweets.

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After test-driving Write.as on an Android phone, here I am typing this post on an external keyboard wirelessly connected to a tablet.

I'm using a Lenovo Tab M8 HD 8” Android 10 tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard. At under 150 EUR combined, both devices are pretty cheap.

I have the Write.as plain text editor open in the Chrome app. I'm no touch typist. But using a physical keyboard, even a cheap unit like this, makes a difference in productivity as it speeds up writing and editing.

Markdown formatting

Markdown support in the editor lets me type rich text such as bold and italics. I can enter lists too, here's a bullet one:

  • one
  • two
  • three

And an ordered list:

  1. first
  2. second
  3. third

Let's have some quoted text:

I'm afraid I don't have anything witty or memorable to say. This is just to show what quoted text looks like.

Where a physical keybord makes a real diffrence is with complex text formatting, such as a table:

Column 1 Column 2
1 2
3 4
5 6

Conclusion

A tablet, an extenal keyboard, and a lightweight blogging platform like Write.as make for a serviceable and productive on the go writing setup.

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While reporting my challenging experience with picking a blogging platform, I incorrectly assumed Silvrback was unmaintained. I hadn't heard back from my email inquiry to them and the latest activity on their Twitter profile dated back to two years earlier.

Silvrback's founder, Kermit Kuehn, later reached out to me to confirm the platform is still maintained and supported.

I updated my previous post. I'm glad Silvrback is alive and I recommend checking it out. Although I'm happy with with my choice of Write.as, Silvrback was a close runner up.

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Is Write.as usable on mobile?

Let's find out. I'm writing this with the Write.as plain text editor in Chrome on a Pixel 4 XL Android phone.

I can use nearly all the editor's features except for attaching images, which I'm not sure is possible on mobile. The distraction-free environment is clean and makes a lot of text fit on the screen.

Markdown formatting

Here's some rich text I'm typing with Markdown syntax in italics and bold. Some Python code:

def square(x):
    return x * x

A bullet list:

  • one
  • two
  • three

A numbered list:

  1. one
  2. two
  3. three

Quoted text:

This is quoted text. I wish I had some witty thought to share for the occasion.

And finally some inline MathJax: $$y = f(x)$$

Conclusion

The Write.as editor is quite usable for posting text content on mobile. The only limit is how fast I can type with the on-screen keyboard.

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I rarely post Twitter threads and grudgingly read the interesting ones that cross my feed.

Why? Because threads have terrible usability.

Twitter doesn't provide much support for writing threads, which often makes using specialized editing tools a necessity. But even then, there's significant friction that distracts from writing.

As a reader, consuming a thread feels like an obstacle course at each step of which I bump into buttons, icons, frames, and other user interface junk. I have to scroll, scroll, and scroll. Some authors make this worse by not numbering the individual tweets, or not giving an indication of how long a thread is and how much text is left to read.

It's incredible how many hoops authors are willing to jump through to cram long-from content into a glorified tweet, and how much readers are willing to endure not to click a link and consume elsewhere text optimized for reading.

Long-form belongs to blogs.

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