Paolo Amoroso's Journal

blogging

I fulfilled the requirements of the Bring Back Blogging challenge, i.e. posting at least three times over January of 2023. I published 8 posts with not much effort as this is more or less my average output. This is my first blogging challenge and I'm glad I took it as it set a realistic goal, not the usual death march.

#blogging

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My first Medley Interlisp blog post was shared on Hacker News, got over a hundred upvotes, and ended up on the front page, where it still is a day later after climbing up to number 5. So far my post received over 24K views, and counting.

I'm really glad Medley Interlisp is gaining some very well deserved attention.

#blogging #lisp

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I enrolled into Bring Back Blogging. It's a project to encourage and bring awareness to blogging by challenging bloggers to publish at least 3 posts in January of 2023, and enabling readers to discover content in the list of participating blogs that includes almost 140 so far. I blog regularly anyway, so it was a no brainer.

I shared Bring Back Blogging on Mastodon and my toot generated huge enthusiasm, with many saying they'll join.

#blogging

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This is the 200th post over 10 months of my blog hosted at Write.as. The milestone is even more significant considering I published 146 posts over 3 years to my previous blog hosted at the bloated, inflexible, and clunky old Blogger.

I credit the milestone in large part to Write.as, a lightweight blogging platform that nearly eliminates friction with its Markdown support and minimalist design.

Typing into the Write.as editing area is all it takes to insert, format, and present the content of a post. With Blogger, even basic text formatting requires laboriously moving and clicking the mouse to select text, click icons, pick menu items, and apply formatting. It all adds up to enough friction to dread the experience and be discouraged from posting.

I started this blog on February 28, 2022. I stumbled upon Write.as at the end of a long research process that led to the best platform for my technical writing needs.

#blogging

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Write.as, where this blog is hosted, supports embedding rich media from many social platforms and websites such as YouTube videos and Twitter tweets. It's enough to insert in a post the bare URL of the content to embed, on a line by itself, for Writes.as to render the media.

I wonder whether media embedding works also with Fediverse platforms, so this test post includes some of this content. Let's start with a toot of my Mastodon profile:

https://fosstodon.org/@amoroso/109360170388228216

Here is the URL of a PeerTube video:

https://diode.zone/w/9edtkEZ3QcmfMZStyrEjgB

Another option with PeerTube is to insert the HTML video embedding code, as Write.as renders some HTML in Markdown:

Does it work?

After checking out the published post I updated it to report on the embeds.

Write.as doesn't render the URLs of both the toot and the PeerTube video. The HTML embedding code does work, but the rendered video is not responsive and doesn't blend well with the page on mobile.

#blogging #fediverse

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The Fediverse presence @paolo@journal.paoloamoroso.com of this blog has some limitations and quirks, such as the way commenting is set up. Another quirk is if I edit an old blog post, a new Fediverse post ends up in the followers' Mastodon timelines.

#blogging

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This blog is hosted at Write.as and uses the default commenting system of the sister platform Remark.as. The Discuss... link in the footer of every post leads to the Remark.as comment box, which does the job but requires a paid account.

To provide alternate options I added to the footer a link to email me and now I'm experimenting with comments from the Fediverse.

The blog has the Fediverse presence @paolo@journal.paoloamoroso.com you can follow. On Mastodon you'll receive a toot for every new blog post. To comment, reply as usual to the toot. But be sure not to delete my Mastodon handle @amoroso@fosstodon.org prefilled in the edit box, which is different from @paolo@journal.paoloamoroso.com

This setup is motivated by a limitation of the blog's Fediverse presence and based on a workaround Write.as founder Matt Baer suggested.

The problem is the blog is unable to receive Fediverse mentions or reactions, so Matt suggested to mention a Mastodon handle anywhere in the blog posts. This way the blog posts' toots automatically include the right Mastodon account in replies, in my case @amoroso@fosstodon.org

When replying to a toot, Mastodon highlights the textual handles of any extra mentioned accounts and typing anything deletes them. That's why you need to pay attention, for example by pressing the right arrow key to un-highlight the handle and move the cursor to the right spot to begin typing the reply.

How did I set up Fediverse commenting on Write.as? In the blog settings, under Customize > Post Signature I inserted this code in the signature, i.e. the footer Write.as appends to posts:

<!-- comment -->
[Email](mailto:info@paoloamoroso.com?subject=Reply%20to%20Paolo%20Amoroso%27s%20Journal) | Reply @amoroso@fosstodon.org

The <!-- comment --> shortcode inserts the Remark.as link (I had to insert spaces to escape it, remove them in your signature). The email link has an ordinary mailto URL. And the Fediverse commenting option is just my Mastodon handle.

#blogging

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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.

#blogging

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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.

#blogging

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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.

#blogging

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