People and Blogs

I’ve been a big fan of Manuel Moreale’s People and Blogs for a while now. In this lovely series of interviews, Manu asks web folks he admires how they got started writing on the ol’ www and it always makes for a fun read.

Today though I had the privilege of Manu interviewing me. It helped me clarify a few decisions I’ve made over the years about the tech under the hood, my process, and ultimately why I still blog in the year 2023:

You don’t need to ask permission from some big publisher in London or New York to have a cool blog, and I suddenly realized that’s the real magic of it all: the world wide web gives you permission. That’s what makes it more punk rock than print.

In my day job as a designer I have to constantly ask for things to change. Can I improve this? Can I try that? What about this over here? And that makes sense considering it’s a business and any decision I make could have profound financial implications for hundreds or even thousands of people.

But it can still feel slow, slow, slow to me.

With a blog you can move as fast or as slow as you like though since you control everything. There’s no asking to change this or that and there’s no one that can get in your way or slow you down. You don’t have to beg someone on the other side of the world to like what you do, to deem it worthy. Just the fact that you’re doing it makes it important! And so that degree of control and permission with a blog or personal website is still thrilling to me.

On the tech side of things, I’ve always felt that the goal of my website is to shorten the distance between my keyboard and the URL as much as possible. Over the years I’ve tuned that build process until I’m almost typing directly onto my website:

...heed this lesson: your blogging tech stack should not be smart. That’s the most painful thing I’ve learned over the years. We need to take out all the complex build tools and fragile parts that slow us down and prevent us from doing the writing. It doesn’t matter if you’re using the coolest new tech thing, what matters is this: how fast can you write and publish something?

I’m giving that feedback to myself here since not so long ago I made the mistake of changing my blog to the latest coolest framework and it made the build process better but the actual blogging much more painful. It was slow! It got in the way! And I felt that distance between keyboard and URL increase with each new update to the framework. The more features they added, the more often I had to read the docs, the more instability I saw. But blogging over the long term demands stability! So I threw it all out and went back to Eleventy. (Sorry, Zach).

During this interview Manu also gave me the space to think about blogging and, ugh, money:

Income is a strange way to measure the success of a blog though. For example, I make $0 a year. There’s no ads or merch on my website. But then again my website has given me opportunities that even a huge paycheck never could. My blog has connected me with friends, future employers, and nifty freelance gigs. My blog has led to money in my pocket, eventually, through some weird roundabout way. But I fear that if I focused on the money then all those other things would disappear.

I still struggle with the money side of things a bit. But those sorts of opportunities to thread and weave my life into a greater tapestry of cool designers and writers can’t be measured in USD.

Anyway, I hope this chat was as useful for other folks as it was helpful for me. So go subscribe to People and Blogs! Go find a personal website and read everything about them! Fall in love with a stranger from a great distance and then go blog weird things about it!

That’s what Tim Berners-Lee would want.