Part Four, Your Blog
Hi, welcome to part 4. Today’s all about the blog. First a bit about blogs, specifically personal blogs. Then I’ll talk about four blogging tools. There are a million tools for blogging, I’ll focus on some popular ones, tell you which ones I chose, and why.
It’s unlinkely that you’ll make serious income even if you start a blog and write awesome things, every single day. There are ways to make money via blogging, and some people are bloggers as their day job. But, I am not advocating that you start a blog to make money. I’m advocating that you start a blog to speak to your interests, and yourself. Maybe you can build up to that idea of 1000 true fans.
So, write to get your words out. Or post silly doodles and bad internet dad jokes like I do on my personal blog. We all need connection.
“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic” - Seth Godin
If and when you’re ready to start a blog, here are four options for you. I’m going to detail one of them, micro.blog, as it’s my own choice. It’s 5$ a month, so it’s not free. 10$ a month if you want to add video and/or microcasts (short podcasts).
It’s not free because there are no ads and your data is not sold elsewhere. Like the Carrd site from yesterday, it’s also built and run by a very small team. One person is the inventor, designer and developer. Once he was able to hire staff, his first choice was not to hire another developer. He chose to hire a community manager. The folks at micro.blog are concerned with building a better internet.
Note: there’s currently a free plan for teachers, and a free upgrade to microcasting for any paid account.
Again, I don’t get anything from micro.blog if you start using it. I just love it.
“The easiest way to blog” so says micro.blog. While the foundation that the platform is built on is highly technical, you do not need those details. You can dig in and change the look and feel of your site aka Templates, and you can get in a rearrange the plumbing and how things work and integrate with many other things. But you don’t need to.
This service is two things at once. One, it’s a blog hosting platform. You pay the fee and your blog is hosted via micro.blog. Just like Wordpress or tumblr or any of the other hosting services.
Secondly, micro.blog is a social network. It’s purpose built to avoid the problems of the other social networks, however. No tracking, and strong community guidelines are the backbone. To keep out the spam, hate, and bad crap. But there’s more:
- You can Favorite a post, like a ‘Like’ button. But it’s more like a Bookmark. No one but you sees the things you Favorite.
- You can’t see the number of people that follow you.
These features avoid the popularity contests and the feeling of people only presenting their “best selves” online. That false sense of reality. But these features drive conversations via replies as well. These replies live in micro.blog Timeline and you can choose to have them on your website, or not.
If you want to skip the community aspect altogether, or on a per-post basis, there’s a way to set that up too. This way you can post your thoughts but not have people be able to discuss via commenting in the Timeline. Let me know if you want the details on that.
There’s a lot of flexibility, if you need it.
One of the indieWeb mantras is owning your own site. POSSE - Post on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. This means you own your words, photos, videos, microcasts, etc and choose where else to put them. You can crosspost from your micro.blog to Twitter, Medium and LinkedIn. Facebook changed their rules so you can only cross post to a Facebook page, not your own account. It’s tricky to set up but can be done. That’s a pain and is an example of exactly why you want control over your own content. So Facebook (or whichever large silo) can’t limit your options for their financial gain.
Much like we discussed with Carrd, your micro.blog will have a micro.blog url, and you can point that to a website you own. We’ll do that in the next post, but I wanted to talk about it again as it’s an important concept to keep in the back of you mind if you being a micro.blog journey.
Here’s how to begin:
Head over to micro.blog. Check out the info on that page to learn more about the service. When your ready, click the Get started now button. The signup is fast and easy. There’s a 10 day free trial.
You can post from the website, or official apps in the Apple platforms. MacOS, iOS and iPad. As it’s an open standards system, developers are making their own micro.blog apps. One is Gluon, it is cross platform (iOS and Android).
There are other official micro.blog apps for iOS. Sunlit is for posting and commenting on photos specifically. It is an Instagram like experience running on micro.blog. Another is Wavelength designed for microcasting (aka short podcasts). It’s an easy way to make your voice heard on micro.blog and offers the ability to get your personal podcast out to all the usual places people listen to podcasts.
The micro.blog website is where all your account info is. You can’t control everything from the apps, those are meant for posting and replying mostly. Account settings and such are done on the web. You can post and reply from the web too, if you prefer that experience over an app.
Regardless of what app you’re using, when you post it’s worth noting that you’ll likely encounter a neat feature. If you write a longer post over 280 characters, the UI will present you with a title bar. You do not need titles for your short posts, or the long ones, even. But once you go over that amount of words, you can optionally add a title.
Because of the features, or lack there of mentioned above, conversations are key on micro.blog. I’ve found it to be a very positive and rewarding experience. The community is largely Male, Caucasian, American, and Technology savvy. But it’s diversifying every day.
It’s a warm welcoming place. People disagree on things but do not participate in attacking each other. It’s not a zero-sum game. People are respectful of others. Rare these days online, sadly.
Micro.blog video crash course
Here’s a breif video that shows how to use the micro.blog service.
More on micro.blog
This screencastsonline video looks pretty thorough! The preview video is free, and covers the basics of micro.blog. To view the rest of the series, you’ll need to subscribe to the service. There is a free 7 day trial too.
This post you are reading is hosted with the Blot platform. It’s about $30 a year to host a site with Blot. Again, not free but may be worth it for you for two reasons.
- Your money goes directly to the developer. Yes, another service run by a single person. And David is fantastic with supporting his users.
- The way Blot works is magical. You write your posts in whatever editor you want, then put the file in a special folder in Dropbox, and it posts to your site. I still can’t get over how magic it is. Maybe it’s just me, lol. There’s great setup instructions to get started.
I love Blot for writing longer posts like this.
Wordpress claims “36% of the web is built on WordPress”. A third of all the websites in the world. It’s popular! It’s free, but has ads. Wordpress is a blog, and a system to let you build sites and stores (sell your products and services). It can scale up to be very large, and large companies use it.
$4 a month gets you the ability to have your own domain, and no ads. The service tiers up to 45$ a month if you’re running store at scale.
- Pros: widely popular, if you need help there are many online resources, and designers and developers that you can pay to help you, if you need that level of help.
- Cons: might be too much for those just staring out. Ads.
WordPress is open source, and aligns to an IndieWeb stance. It’s a good option, however I prefer micro.blog as it’s easier to use, purposefully has less features (therefore overhead and friction).
Recently acquired by Wordpress, Tumblr is a blog platform with a social component. You can follow people and reblog their posts. One of the cooler features of Tumblr is the post types. You can post and categorize your posts based on if they are audio, video, image, etc.
It’s free so you may want to give it a try. Open comments can lead to bad behavior ala twitter and YouTube comments.
Some other options
For even more options, check out squarespace, wix, and 1999. Each have pros and cons of course.
Squarespace seems overly complicated and I don’t care for the UX of the site builder. But there’s a community of helpful people out there too.
Wix has made a lot of improvements over the last several years, and a lot of people are moving to it. I don’t see how it differs from WordPress, but that might just be me.
1999 - people love the ease of use of posting, but you have to host this yourself. In other words start and run your own server. I’m not 100% sure on the amount of effort here, but it’s harder to setup than any of the other options. If you don’t know (or want to learn) what
git cloneis, you’ll want another option.
Start a blog
Whichever system you choose, send me the link to your blog. I’d love to read your thoughts and stories. Pick one option and start, you can move things later if you need to because you’ll own the words you write.
Continue to Part five