In recent weeks I’ve fielded a number of questions, all of them in offline conversations, about my approach to blogging. Those sorts of conversations were common six or seven years ago, when blogging was growing in popularity. However, the rise of services like Facebook and Twitter, caused blogging to decline in popularity. There was even something of a backlash against the most sensationalist and crassly-commercial blogs.
Now things seem to be changing and more people seem to be starting blogs or re-entering the blogging field. Not that I’m surprised by this. In February I wrote that blogging would make a comeback, of sorts, in 2010. In that post I said,
“…Twitter and Facebook are very limited vehicles for holding content — that is not their strength.
If you have creative output, you need a place to host it, explain it and maybe invite comment on it. On that level blogging still makes sense. Content-specific platforms, like Flickr (photos) and Soundcloud (music) are great hosts but limited content and commentary platforms. If you have a story to tell, about your life, or work, or product, a sustained story, then blogging is still a compelling platform.
Because, as I’ve always said, blogging is ultimately all about self-publishing.”
That’s why I have my own domain (www.fernandogros.com) and use a highly customisable blog platform (WordPress). Services like Posterous and Tumblr are quick and easy to use, but offer limited scope for original design and, for want of a better word, branding.
In fact, I’m a believer that whatever online services you use, they should all funnel back to one central website with your name, your “branding” or identity, your store (if that’s your thing), your content and your story. Something like WordPress is the best way to do that because even if you don’t want your site to look or feel like a blog, such blogging software now makes it easy to manage your content and make it look good.
That happens because the more comprehensive blogging platforms make it simple to create each blogpost (it’s no harder than writing an email) and they allow a range of plugins and themes to be used to modify the behaviour of site. You don’t have to settle for something that looks like an journal, you can easily opt for more of a magazine, or online gallery format if you wish.
Moreover, different processes manage the content and the look of the site. That means that when you create blogposts, you are not constantly being distracted by decisions about fonts or colours. More importantly, it means that when you decide to redesign your site (and WordPress will allow for radically different designs), you don’t have to go back and fix or adjust every post or article.
For example the basic design of this blog comes from Graph Paper Press. They provide a range of free blog themes, as well as a subscription service for their more comprehensive layouts and even a full customisation service. Their products can make your site look like anything from a conventional blog, to a magazine, or even a high end gallery. The layout for mobile devices is managed (painlessly) with the WordPress Mobile Pack plugin.
The photos and photo galleries in each blogpost are styled with the FancyBox plugin. I no longer use an FTP programme to upload images, since that can now be done via WordPress from within the internet browser (including managing the file-structure for all media).
The fonts I use on this site are provided through TypeKit and integrated into the blog with the Typekit Fonts for WordPress plugin. Again, this approach makes it easy to change typefaces and font designs without having to alter any of the content on the site.
I write all the blogposts away from from the the browser, in Scrivener. I do this because writing into a browser interface always begs distraction and because Scrivener allows me to easily manage drafts and re-edits of each post. Everything you see on this blog normally goes through three to four rewrites and it typically takes three to ten days for a post to go from initial idea to final version.
By the way, today marks the sixth anniversary of this blog. I started blogging in 2001 and after a few different attempts, settling on this blog in 2004. A lot of things have changed over the years, in terms of design and topics. However, I’m happy that the blog has been a fairly solid (if slightly irregular) manifest of these years. If Douglas Coupland is right, that in the future we will find it increasingly difficult to view our lives as a story, then blogging and the public discussion we create around our blogs will be one way to retain the sense that our lives hang together as a narrative.
And that, for me, is reason enough to go on.