Filthy blogger

Marcelo Somers:

There’s a cancer spreading through the indie tech blogger community: the blockquote + link post.

Guilty.

For many a year, I wrote using the traditional Today I Ate x for Lunch format, but I decided to try linkblogging when I moved away from WordPress.[1] This is partially because I felt like I was reading a lot of interesting stuff that I wanted to share (and write—but not necessarily write a whole lot—about) with other people, in a place where I could dictate the presentation, experience, and discussion—that is, as I’ve said before, a place that wasn’t Facebook or Twitter. I did try this format out with Tumblr awhile ago, but the issue I had there was that I was consuming (distinct from reading) and reblogging more than I was actually creating or commenting or critiquing. The social aspects of it, as fun as they were, were getting in the way, and I was only diluting the accomplishments of the creators that I was reblogging.[2]

But the real reason for switching to linkblogging was because John Gruber is doing it, and he is highly successful, and I want me summa dat.

On the one hand, it’s a very compelling and easy format for writing: quote, comment, post, repeat. I’ve heard it called curation. It’s reblogging but with (hopefully) more thought. You’re thinking it through, considering context, greater meaning—the gestalt, to quote Gruber. Hopefully. But that makes me think of something Choire Sicha wrote about “Internet curation”:

More likely you’re a low-grade collector, not a curator. You’re buying (in the attention economy at least! If not in the actual advertising economy of websites!) what someone else is selling—and you’re then reselling it on your blog. You’re nothing but a secondary market for someone else’s work.

Ouch.

And more sinister is the fact that it’s such a quick format that it’s easy to crank out posts. One after another. Quote, comment, post, repeat. It’s an easy rhythm. Crank and crank and crank and crank. That’s a problem—the same one I had with Tumblr’s reblogging. But Tumblr makes no bones that you’re just—well—reblogging and repeating somebody else’s post, with little further expectation; careless linkblogging, on the other hand, can provide the illusion that you’re meaningfully adding to the conversation, when in reality it’s another layer without purpose or context. It’s an extra, meaningless click. It’s pithiness for pithy’s sake. It’s worse than hoarding—it’s adding to the bullshit. Merlin Mann:

Sometimes the cranking made something special that will be really useful to people who badly need the comfort and help. But, a staggering amount of the time, my cranking has produced joyless and unemotional bullshit that couldn’t comfort, help, or please anyone.

In the past couple weeks, I have been guilty of this. To a greater or lesser degree (usually greater), depending on the day, but guilty all the same.

You have to just kind of take me at my word when I say that I am genuinely trying not to crank. But it’s hard to be consistently meaningful—and I expected as much. I have only been doing this for a couple weeks. I’m not saying that to excuse my failure, but more as a means to say that I acknowledge the problem and want to make it better.

Because of the nearly ten years of personal blogging trappings (e.g. endless posts about bagels and orange juice), switching to a shorter, more factual format is weird. It’s not what this blog used to be, and I don’t think it’ll totally go back to that again, if at all. But I still consider it a personal blog, much in the way that Daring Fireball is John Gruber’s personal blog.[3] He reports on technology and Apple products, sure, but he also writes about sports and science and movies and whatever else has his attention.

That’s the format that I aspire to. I want to share the things that delight me, or frustrate me, or inspire me. Those things include Apple products and web design and video games.[4] Other times, it’ll be gender equality and Mars rovers. And maybe once in awhile it’ll be bagels and orange juice.

More than that—in fact, most importantly—I want, if not to convince a member of The Readership, such as it is, that it is important, to express at least why it is is important to me.[5] And I think the linkblog is a good fit for how I want to share and write about these things that I care about and capture my attention. The medium might change. Writing might not even be part of the endgame. But it’s how I’m starting.

I am not good at this at all. At all. I am more cancer, currently, than creator. But I’m trying. I know that I am not writing as a wooly, histrionic mess anymore; I mean, that was pretty entertaining, at the very least in a glad-that’s-not-anyone-I-know kind of way. And while I did produce some writing that I remain proud of, that’s tended to be the exception rather than the norm; much of the rest of it was cynical and self-indulgent for its own sake, and that cynicism and self-indulgence—which has its place, don’t get me wrong—rarely made me feel better or like I was actually making something.

And so frankly all of this has been kind of an implicit-now-explicit way to beg forgiveness from both myself and The Readership, such as it is, for any cancer-like elements. I’m begging forgiveness because this is something I want to keep doing, and it’s something that I narcissistically want other people—even if it’s only one or two people—to say that they want, even if it is not what I[6] expected from a blog relaunch. So, fair warning that there will be a lot of cancer and shitting around before there’s a chance that anything gets—good.

But one day, one hopes. This the most excited I’ve been about writing and blogging in a very long time, and I cannot wait to see where it[7] goes.[8]


  1. This format switch has also resulted in much less doom-and-gloom personal writing. But if we’re all being honest, yt. was getting really tired of that, and is sure that The Readership, such as it was, was too. Or at the least, one hopes so. (There is plenty of Old Wound to look back on, if you miss it.) The thing about carrying on writing like that since 2002 (!!!) is that eventually it’s more persona than personal. (See what I did there?) And while yt. hopes that, at his best, such writing exposed some truth and meaning, it’s also regretful that it wasn’t terribly honest most of the time, and certainly not representative of what yt. really wanted to write about, even if it was—ugh—“personal”. What that what is, is beyond the scope of this footnote.  ↩

  2. I felt least guilty about reblogging cute cat photos. But I still felt guilty. Over cute cat photos. That’s how I knew something had gone terribly wrong.  ↩

  3. Bloggy blog blog blogity blog I hate how this stupid word sounds blog.  ↩

  4. Not necessarily respectively, and not necessarily in that order.  ↩

  5. Yt. may have taken for granted the fact that, because it was being posted, it must have been important in some way. Which was not the case much of the time.  ↩

  6. Nor, probably, the eldest and sagest members of The Readership, such as it is.  ↩

  7. That is to say, this blatant and shameless Johnny-come-lately rip-off of Daring Fireball.  ↩

  8. I really hope it’s into a giant pile of gold bars.  ↩