More shortly! I just wanted to dust off the podcast. Subscribe here or via your podcast player of choice if you’d like (just search for my name).
Another reason you should be writing in your own space on your blog and notebooks…
A false sense of security persists surrounding digitized documents: because an infinite number of identical copies can be made of any original, most of us believe that our electronic files have an indefinite shelf life and unlimited retrieval opportunities. In fact, preserving the world’s online content is an increasing concern, particularly as file formats (and the hardware and software used to run them) become scarce, inaccessible, or antiquated, technologies evolve, and data decays. Without constant maintenance and management, most digital information will be lost in just a few decades. Our modern records are far from permanent.
Even Facebook gets it…
It’s an almost unthinkable reversal from Meta’s extremely lucrative walled-garden strategy, which it has employed for its entire history as a company. But Mosseri told me that decentralization is the future of social networks — even if it means that someday a disgruntled Threads user will be able to take the following they build in the app to another network, never to return.
Artificial Intelligence might usher in something like a return to curated web experiences. This article is presented in a very “anti-AI” posture, but it also raises the idea that what happens to the web after AI completely saturates online content (and discovery through search and googling, etc.) is a realization that humans are pretty good at curating stuff for other humans.
Hence, making a Spotify playlist for someone special is still just as engaging as when we used cassette tapes in the 80s and 90s to do the same.
My personal wish is that we all go back to the notion of personal blogging or at least small and niche online communities with things like guestbooks (go sign mine… just set up today!) and Blogrolls to point us in interesting directions rather than relying on TikTok’s algorithms…
This is the same complaint identified by Stack Overflow’s mods: that AI-generated misinformation is insidious because it’s often invisible. It’s fluent but not grounded in real-world experience, and so it takes time and expertise to unpick. If machine-generated content supplants human authorship, it would be hard — impossible, even — to fully map the damage. And yes, people are plentiful sources of misinformation, too, but if AI systems also choke out the platforms where human expertise currently thrives, then there will be less opportunity to remedy our collective errors.
There’s no denying that social media has made it easier to post online, but if you want to make sure that your own voice is being heard, get a domain, then purchase some web hosting and start a blog…
Reddit is introducing controversial charges to developers of third-party apps, which are used to browse the social media platform.
But this has resulted in a backlash, with moderators of some of the biggest subreddits making their communities private for 48 hours in protest.
Almost 3,500 subreddits will be inaccessible as a result.
Anyone who has read my writings and ravings here since 2006 will know I feel this exact way.
Buy that domain name. Carve your space out on the web. Tell your stories, build your community, and talk to your people. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It doesn’t need to duplicate any space that already exists on the web — in fact, it shouldn’t. This is your creation. It’s your expression. It should reflect you.
Bring back personal blogging in 2023. We, as a web community, will be all that much better for it.
I had something happen along these lines when I lost my Instagram and Facebook accounts after being compromised through a connected service with a bad password. There was no recompense or way to gain access to those networks that had been built up and maintained over years and years. Luckily, I had backups of the actual content, but all of those connections and gardens of interaction were immediately plowed up. I had been gardening on someone else’s land.
It’s yet another reason I’ve been focusing more on content and actual thoughts here and using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc, for more tertiary purposes. This domain and blog are my canonical place on the web.
Go and do likewise.
I stress to clients that they have to tag and categorize their posts on WordPress. It’s one of the easiest ways to increase your organic traffic and discoverability in Google, but it also helps the web find you.
So tag your posts, people!
Also, good checklist here for setting up a WordPress website on a hosting platform…
If you’re not already on board, keep reading; a client of mine gets 100,000 unique visitors per month. More than 3% of those are referred to by tags listed in the SERPs.
- Limit your tagging to relevant topics you covered in the post.
- Not every post needs to be tagged.
- Keep tags short and sweet; no more than two words.
- Delete overused and underused tags monthly.
- Improved user experience.
- Increased engagement.
I get the allure of Substack and applaud the move to decentralized platforms, but why not write on your own blog if your goal is independence and direct interaction with your own audience?
It’s not that difficult.
So many more benefits to creating in your own space, on your own domain, with your own platform…
And despite a handful of departures over politics, that wave is growing for Substack. The writers moving there full time in recent days include not just Mr. Lavery, but also the former Yahoo News White House correspondent Hunter Walker, the legal writer David Lat and the columnist Heather Havrilesky, who told me she will be taking Ask Polly from New York Magazine to “regain some of the indie spirit and sense of freedom that drew me to want to write online in the first place.”
Interesting… didn’t realize the bit about the WordPress 5.6 release team. That’s admirable and something that we need more of in the open-source world (and the tech world in general):
One thing I’ll call out WordPress 5.6 had an all women and non-binary release squad of over 50 people, a first for WordPress and probably any large open source project. Also the market share of WordPress grew more in 2020 than it has in any year since it started being tracked!
I started writing email newsletters in 2002 and blogging in 2003 for a couple of marketing outlets. I was mowing the lawn on October 13, 2006, and had the bright idea to start a marketing blog called CostPerNews. It took off rather quickly and before I knew it, I was getting citations on Techmeme and flown around to speak at various marketing and tech conferences. Part of that adventure was luck and hitting the blogging scene at just the right moment and part of it was the time and energy it took to write 3-5 posts a day about the various aspects of marketing I was covering.
Around that same time, I decided to use this samharrelson.com domain for my personal blog to journal and capture ideas and observations. Of course, it never had the same impact as CostPerNews, but it does continue to draw a not-insignificant amount of traffic each month.
Things really changed in the early 2010s as we moved from blogs to “social” media. I championed Twitter heavily back in 2006-2008 as an addition to what blogs had become and thought the platform would continue to amplify self-hosted personal sites and become a real discovery engine. What I hoped for is that personal and business blogs would bloom and platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr (RIP), and Facebook would be traffic drivers to those destinations. Boy, was I wrong. Worse, I gave in and started using those sites instead of this space for my personal thoughts and observations. You can see that in the chart above that shows the number of posts I’ve made here since 2006.
I’ve always had grand thoughts of doing away with my Twitter and Facebook accounts as primary places of content production and focusing here.
I’m taking that seriously in 2020. I’m not abandoning FB or Twitter (as I did Instagram last year), but I am using this as my primary hub.
On that note, let’s take a look back at the Top 10 posts from 2010-2020 here on the blog based on site traffic:
- What Is a High Church Baptist? (March 2, 2009) Though technically before 2010, this decade-old post continues to be a big page view generator.
- Apple’s iOS Home Screen Problem (January 25, 2016): Still true.
- Our AI-Assisted (Near) Future (July 2, 2016): Missed this prediction by a few years but still believe.
- NASA Receives Response from Voyager 1 (March 31, 2018): This one made the front page of Reddit and blew up.
- Google To Start Marking Sites Without HTTPS as Not Secure in July (June 26, 2018)
- Nexus 4 and Porting My Number to Google Voice (February 2, 2013): I still love that Nexus 4. Great device.
- iPad Pro is the New Mac (June 23, 2016): iPadOS makes this even truer almost 4 years later.
- The Golden Age of Apps are Over – Messengers Will Rule (February 10, 2016): I wrote this at a church picnic while grilling hotdogs in the back of my truck. I was a few years early but still think it’ll happen.
- Why augmented reality’s future is more practical and rational than you realize (July 17, 2016): Obviously I thought Pokemon Go was a harbinger of things to come.
- Of Siri and Hesiod (March 14, 2016): I love posts that combine new tech with ancient tech.
It looks like 2016 was definitely a bright spot for the blog here. I had made a concerted effort to stop giving so much content to the advertising-driven social networks and remind myself that I had space here that needed me. As I look back on the last 10 years and thousands of posts, I’m equally reminded of that realization. And excited.
It’s good to be back. Let’s see if we can do 1,000 here in 2020.