This article was written in 2015. It might or it might not be outdated. And it could be that the layout breaks. If that’s the case please let me know.
Yesterday I retweeted a tweet by Trent Walton that praised an article that beautifully describes how much the web has changed. Hossein Derakhshan, the author of the article, was jailed in Iran for six years for writing blog posts. He came out a few months ago and didn’t just find a changed world, he found a changed web. At the time he was jailed, web logs were powerful. People used to visit blogs a few times a day to see if there were any updates. And updates meant either new, insightful (or infuriating) articles, or new comments. This was how political blogs worked, and it was also how the web community worked. This is how I learned my job. By following blogs and reading valuable comments.
I remember that around the time that Hossein went to jail, I started wondering what was happening to all the blogs I was following. They were updated less frequently, and there was almost no discussion. Comment threads remained empty. Soon I discovered that most of the discussion moved away from blogs to Twitter. So I started following people on Twitter. While Twitter is still a valuable medium to find links to good articles, I find it to be not as valuable as blogs used to be.
Anyway. While I was retweeting Trent’s tweet I decided that instead of retweeting, I should be blogging about it. There’s more to say about this link than fits into 140 characters, and definitely more than 140 characters written by somebody else.
In his article Hossein mentions popularity. He says that
bloggers were rock stars back in 2008. Many people were reading his blogs and leaving comments. And right now, when he publishes something on his blog, nobody seems to notice. This is of course a big problem.
A few years ago Jeremy Keith started writing blog posts about the idea that we should all be publishing our articles on our own websites again. Back then I was blogging a lot. And I wrote Jeremy an email in which I told him that it’s hard to keep blogging if nobody reads your blog. New articles would be read by a few people, maybe 100 if somebody retweeted it. Jeremy answered that the only solution to this issue is to write for yourself.
Around that same time Frank Chimero wrote a blog (or a tweet, I can’t remember) about statistics. He got rid of all of them. He found them distracting, and not that interesting. I did the same thing and found it to be very, very liberating. I now have no idea at all how many people read my blogs. I wouldn’t know if somebody with one billion followers tweeted a link to my article. And I find it very liberating. I write stuff for myself now.
Hossein’s article inspired me to write this blogpost. Maybe it might inspire me to write more blogposts again. I like the idea of writing small blogposts about why I think people should read an article. Longer than 140 characters. I’m not sure how to attract attention to those posts though.
Maybe I should tweet a link to them?