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The Macro of Micro.blog

A belated year review and look at the big picture of why I went all-in with the Micro.blog platform.

There has likely never been a better or easier time to start a blog than right now. We certainly are spoiled for choice, though the obvious flip side to that bevy of platforms is actually having to choose something and stick with it. For someone like me who’s not only a geek but also could spend more time analyzing his options than a chess grandmaster, I spent an inordinate amount of time coming to a decision. Add to that I’m also a perfectionist who likes to get things right the first time, hence an additional battle I had with myself of using something that would be around for the long haul. Perhaps the most ironic part to this (inevitable?) stalling was that it was keeping me from what I wanted to be doing all along… writing. As it turned out, however, the guilt from not exercising that same drive was what finally made the decision for me.

My process of researching and trying out numerous platforms included several static site generators, Wordpress, Ghost, Squarespace, Write.as, Blot, and of course, Micro.blog. My leanings were always toward the static side of the fence, as I find it keeps focus on the basics of the web and in sites that are clean, light, and fast. Just search the web for “static site generators” and the sky is literally the limit for how many of these there are, as well as the ease to which one can get lost in reading about and comparing them (guilty as charged). The thing to me is, as good as all of these static generators are, almost all of them suffer from the lack of flexibility when it comes to any kind of dynamic content. That’s nothing unusual or unexpected, since their whole premise is to pre-compile the web content as opposed to generating on the fly.

For dynamic content, this is the realm of Wordpress, Ghost, and Squarespace, and all of these bring a lot to the table. However, if you’ve read my post about becoming a full-time iPad user you’ll recall that I’ve grown past the point of wanting to administer and maintain my operating system. Not surprisingly, this also applies to running a website. While Squarespace doesn’t require network and sysadmin skills to maintain your site, it makes up for it with a (still) very clunky editor in my opinion, and is also expensive. Wordpress and Ghost both have very cheap self-hosting options, but with that comes the obvious requirement of maintaining a server which is a non-starter for me. That leaves me with hosted solutions for Wordpress and Ghost, which like Squarespace were also more than I wanted to pay to host a simple blog.

Write.as and Blot were interesting options, and offer a very simple posting interface and workflow. They both reap the benefits of speedy and lightweight sites that static generators provide, without having to mess around with more cumbersome workflows such as git for mobile posting (though Blot does give the option to use git if you so choose). Don’t get me wrong, I like git but it’s still an extra layer of friction to posting on a blog, and akin to my journey away from legacy computing simplicity is king. Like their static counterparts however, Write.as and Blot also both suffered from the lack of handing dynamic content. And it was this dynamic content, or more specifically the type that was the biggest factor in my decision to use Micro.blog:

IndieWeb.

Part of the philosophy of the IndieWeb is owning and controlling your content, making your blog the hub of everything you do online and using cross-posting to publish on other third-party platforms. POSSE: “Publish on Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.” It hearkens to the early days of the web when huge social media sites like Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist. When everyone’s online presence was through blogs and other independent websites, and instead of traipsing through the quick dopamine minefield of social media people actually either replied to writing they liked on their own blog, or via email. IndieWeb makes the former easy through the use of webmentions, whereby the reply to a blog post will be sent and received at the original site, and posted as a comment in that post. It’s a beautifully simplistic adoption of slow, thoughtful, asynchronous communication that also makes email a tool I’ve come back to in earnest.

IndieWeb is at the core of Micro.blog, and as such webmentions are built-in and working out of the box. The same open philosophy can be found in the community itself, which is not only friendly and welcoming but also a source of great ideas, friendship, and conversation. Micro.blog has a hidden ace up its sleeve as well, that being Hugo, which is by far the fastest static site generator there is by a country mile. It merges the best advantages of static sites with the power and flexibility of dynamic content, and allows you to host short and long form content all in one place. There are a large selection of apps that can post directly and seamlessly to Micro.blog, without fuss, workarounds, or friction.

It strips away all the fluff of having to maintain other platforms, and boils down the experience to the pure essence of what blogging is all about:

Write, and publish.

Posted in #SeptemberScrawls - Day 30

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