Is There Food?

by Daniel Woolstencroft

Blogging Revival Or Blogging Reinvention

Lately I’m detecting a bit of a shift in the way people are using the Internet to communicate their ideas. Certainly from the perspective of individual, personalised blogging.

Chris Shiflett writes that “We need a blog revival”. He talks about an “Ideas of March” concept that’s intended to rejuvenate blogging. Frank Chimero responds to that with a brilliantly written post, culminating in the advice/instruction “Go write”. This is very much in keeping with the Bring Back Blogging BBB idea I posted about a while back, coined by someone I chat with on Twitter.

Combined with that, there’s been a lot of discussion on various sites to do with Baked Blogging - that is, a blogging system that’s resilient enough to handle a massive uptick in traffic. ┬áThe long story short is this: WordPress, gloriously flexible as it is, can be made to fall over on an average cheap webhost quite easily if not tuned correctly. That’s because WordPress is dynamic, it’s database driven. If you look at the address of this post, you’ll see it’s not an html page - akin to a text file on your computer - but a php page. It’s been built out of lots of little bits of data that have been extracted from a database (think big, complicated spreadsheet).

A “baked” system would create html files, that can be delivered to a browser without the server doing a lot of heavy lifting, and survive that spike in traffic. You could argue that it’s more environmentally friendly this way too, there are less wasted CPU cycles to generate the text you’re reading. That’s the practical advantage.

Marco Arment, on the Build and Analyze podcast, suggests another reason for this kind of system: you own your content. If you’re publishing to the web via text files on your computer, you’ve still got those text files after you’ve posted. It doesn’t matter if the server explodes, you forget your password, or you want to publish somewhere else. You’ve got the data on your computer or DropBox.

Another thing that Marco talks about, and something that I’ve noticed lately, is that there isn’t a fantastic way to post your writing using an iOS or Android device. There’s a WordPress app, but it doesn’t feel all that brilliant and I’ve had reliability problems with it in the past. Everyone speaks very highly about Mars Edit for the Mac, and it doesn’t feel to me like we’ve got a Mars Edit level application for mobile devices yet.

And so, I suggest to you that we need not just a blogging revival: we need a blogging reinvention. Blogging 2.0 would be an unpleasantly lazy way of expressing it.

There’s a certain type of person who’s moving away from Twitter, and recognises that some or all of their creative energies are being sapped by that platform. They want to express their ideas in greater details than Twitter allows. They want to create content on whatever platform they like, and be unconstrained by the particular software that they’re using. Like Twitter, this new kind of blogging should allow and encourage any kind of client.

The cost of entry should be low. It should be personalised, single user focused, and transparent enough to allow the writing to be the key area of focus. Like recent apps OmmWriter, IA Writer, and others, it would be nice to have a blogging platform that’s enjoyable and inspiring to use. WordPress seem to recognise this, and a focus of the next release is claimed to be a more zen-like posting interface that reduces the huge number of checkboxes, menus, and input fields clamouring for your attention.

That gives us 4 core elements:

  • Enjoyable to use

  • resilient enough to survive traffic spikes (and require a low cost of ownership in terms of hosting)

  • Place the ownership of raw content in the hands of the user, not the back-end system

  • Allow content creation and posting from any device you chose

Who’s with me? And perhaps more importantly, who’s going to build it?!?