November 27, 2017

A few notes on blogging & independent feeds

On resisting hyperfeeds

I’ve been struggling recently with the hyperfeeds. Twitter and Facebook specifically. These slick, algorithmically designed experiences designed for the motives of BigSocial are increasingly leaving me dissatisfied.

About 6 months ago I stumbled across Dave Winer’s and instantly bookmarked it and found it a much more… wholesome? feed. Something about the cadence of independent publishing combined with a text-first approach really struck a note for me. This is a feed I feel good about consuming. And it’s not too fast. Not too much.

But that’s Dave’s feed. Or river as he calls it. And you can build your own using his technology River5.

That’s great but requires a little more technical setup than I can muster. And if regular people are going to use it the barrier to entry will have to be smaller.

So I decided to make my own version - hosted on Google Docs for ultimate ease-of-cms. If you’re interested you can follow along here:

I’m not quite ready to release the code yet but I’d like to. Specifically I’d love to get this to a point where all you need to do is copy the Google Doc and you’re ready to go with building your own self-hosted feed (or feeds!).

Why Small Feeds Matter

This is just notes but there’s something about blogging that still captures my imagination. I’ve been reading some really great writing recently and it’s come to me from self-hosted blogs. Not via Medium or the hyperfeeds of BigSocial.

Austin Kleon on daily blogging

After struggling to come up with a new book idea for so long, I could start to see all the connections between posts, the patterns, the idea planets I keep orbiting. Because it’s all in one place, hyperlinked together, I can see my own obsessions in a way that is much harder elsewhere.

There’s something about the humble hyperlink that gets subsumed by hyperfeeds. The archive. The curation of tags and categories. Blog series.

I’m mulling some big changes right now around how I think about and brand the work I do and it’s been deeply useful to be able to find similar spirits that have been through these kinds of transitions and read their writing from when they went through a transition.

Specifically - this post by Paul Soulellis leaving the office to get to work strikes a chord:

So here’s the manifesto part: I’m leaving the office to get to work. My goal is to return to NYC next summer with a body of new, non-client work. I don’t know what the work is yet and I won’t know what it means until I return. It’s kind of important that I don’t try to figure that out now, but let it unfold in real time. Call it a sabbatical. My only plan is to be present in the world by looking and listening and being open to new situations and people. And to myself. I need to be more comfortable with uncertainty. I need to get back to curiosity. I need to get back to slow design. I need to ask questions like: who am I as a designer, without clients? What do I believe in? Do I have a design philosophy? Do I need one?

This is (I think) very early in Paul’s transition period, before the word Counterpractice is a “thing” yet. But it’s magical to be able to keep reading the blog posts and to follow his thinking as it emerges from this unknown into a real tangible idea of Counterpractice:

Resistance - Scenes from a designer’s counter-practice

Of course - this still seems like the early days. He’s at issue 1 of the library of the printed web. And today we’re up to issue 5 and a retrospective was acquired by the MoMA.

Anyway - maybe there’s a narrative here. Maybe there’s a little mission emerging around independent voices, small open feeds and… yes, blogging.

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This post was written by Tom Critchlow - blogger and independent consultant. Subscribe to join my occassional newsletter: