How I Became A Micro.blogger

Something happened on the internet again. A guy who likes to tweak his blog theme totally switched platforms, moving from one host to another in haste and inadvertently breaking some links. And it’s basically Elon Musk's fault. WordPress gets some blame too. Let me explain.

A Micro.blogger is born

Elon Musk bought Twitter and started wrecking it. So many people fled to Mastodon; conversation started happening there. The zeitgeist was Mastodon to the social-media rescue. It has promise since it’s – based on IndieWeb principles – decentralized. All this compelled the geek in me to try social media again.

In turn, I was reminded of Micro.blog because it, too, is IndieWeb friendly and social. Which would be better, Mastodon or Micro.blog? I was thinking of each one as social platforms. Mastodon is more Twitter-like – both a good and bad thing. But then, looking more into Micro.blog, I was slapped sober; it’s more…blog-like!

While I wanted to try Indie Social Media, I kind of needed a better blog host than old-fashioned Blogger. Due to the WordPress disruption last year, I had moved from WordPress to Blogger, which was nostalgic if nothing else. And though I’m fond of it – despite Google – Blogger is like the walking dead.

Realizing Micro.blog is both decentralized social media and a blog platform, my brain was electrified into action. I saw Micro.blog in a new light; as host, it could be my new blogging home! It’s modern, has a credible reputation, and is built on a firm IndieWeb foundation. The cherry on top is that my blog could automatically cross-post to the Micro.blog social timeline. Why hadn’t I joined before?

Faster than a growing 16-year old can inhale a pizza, I was whisked off my feet from Blogger; a Micro.blogger was born. I moved my domain name before I imported any previous posts. Permalinks? Yes…until I broke them. It’s a small price to pay; no worries. I also readily paid for a monthly subscription – sign me up, take my money! – and then, so impressed by the service, I bought a whole year of hosting at once. I’m all in.

A microblogger is born

This change in blog hosts caused another change; the way I blog. Not only was a Micro.blogger born, a microblogger was born.

You see, my custom for years was to only publish long-form posts – articles with a title like the one you’re now reading. And when I had a Twitter account, I Tweeted short stuff like links, quotes, or microposts. But now that I can totally do that on Micro.blog in addition to traditional blogging, I find myself liberated in sharing with the world, free to publish both short and long posts, no longer bound by a quantity of words; quality matters most.

With this newfound freedom, I’m now embracing the idea and practice of mixing microposts with, uh, “macro” posts on my blog; it’s like a whole other level of blogging for me. Let’s say you took the best of Tweets and the best of Medium articles and combined them in a single feed; that’s a Micro.blog blog.

It’s great because sometimes I only have a few words to say about something and can now freely share that; I don’t have to wax verbose just to create a long article. Simple status updates are welcome here. Yet I’m also not limited to only 280 character text snippets; when the muse impels, my words can flow like Niagara Falls.

I think the mix works well. If nothing else, it certainly accomplishes what Micro.blog founder, Manton Reece, aimed for: people blogging more often. I’m now posting at least once a day, whereas I used to post about three times a week.

So this blogger upgraded. Now I’m also a microblogger.

And thanks to what’s dubbed the “Fediverse” (think Blogosphere), I don’t have to choose between Micro.blog or Mastodon. Basically, one can feed into the other, so with my Micro.blog account, I also have a Mastodon profile - no instance required. Bonus! But all this…is for another post.

Note: This post exceeds 280 characters by several thousand. No problem.

What do you think?

✉️ Reply by email

✴️ Follow on Micro.blog

Micro.blog Is Interesting

I’ve been checking out Mastodon lately — decentralized social media — which led me to rediscovering a related site/platform called Micro.blog. I had briefly tried it out a few years ago but didn’t need it alongside my WordPress blog (and Twitter profile). But now, things are different.

Mastodon is a social media service/software/platform, like Twitter. You only post short texts, a.k.a microblog posts, like a comment or a status update. The aim is to chit-chat with others in a sort of open conversation about whatever. It’s like equal parts of sharing a thought on your mind and checking the thoughts of others. You can just as easily comment on someone’s post as you can simply comment in your own new post.

Micro.blog is a blogging service/platform. It hosts stand-alone blogs that can have either short or long posts. It’s like traditional blogging — something I happen to enjoy. But it adds a timeline/feed for all micro.blog posts, whether short or long. It favors short posts; not sure what that says about quality versus quantity though:

“…Micro.blog is focused on short posts because we think it encourages people to write more often…” Micro.blog help center

Those are the big picture overviews of each service, as far as I understand them. I’m still trying to wrap my head around each one, learning how they overlap or interact. Mastodon and Micro.blog are indieweb compliant. So they feature strong benefits of avoiding centralized for-profit social media or blogging services. Yet it’s hard for me to decide which I might like to use, if any.

On one hand, I left social media. But it was the big publicly-traded commercial juggernauts of Twitter and Facebook. You know, the kind that prioritizes profits over people by maximizing user-engagement, typically via algorithm-pushed negativity. And on the other hand, I’m still a social creature like my fellow humans and have some attraction to “joining the conversation” on the interwebs with its netizens.

“Micro.blog is a blogging platform with a social engagement component. We have a timeline where you can follow and interact with other bloggers. Sometimes it feels like Twitter, because of the timeline, mentions, and conversations.” Micro.blog help center

The weird thing is how Micro.blog seems to combine blogging with social media. In my mind, it’s similar to the WordPress Reader, which is a feed — a reverse chrono timeline — of blogs you choose to follow (with a few suggestions). It lets you like and comment too. But since all WordPress blog posts are big/long, the Reader is more like looking at an RSS reader for news articles. In contrast, looking at the Micro.blog timeline shows you lots of short posts or status updates, like Twitter, where you can also interact with commenting and such.

Though hesitant, I’m thinking about using both Micro.blog and Mastodon. The possibilities are intriguing, but I know part of the reason is they’re different from my current blogging setup; they’re shiny new tech things to try out. For now, I’m trying out Micro.blog. One step at a time.

What’s your take?

Reply by email.

Mastodon Is Interesting

As Twitter implodes, there remains the elephant in the room: social media persists. The elephant’s cousin — Mastodon — proves it. Well, sort of. As social creatures, people are going to connect online, one way or the other. At first, I heard about various Twitter alternatives, but Mastodon seems to keep rising to the top. Though I doubt I’ll join, I’m interested in that it’s “federated,” kind of like email.

I can’t get into the technical stuff because it’s mostly over my head. I’ve read a few articles about it, but Glenn Fleishman’s recent piece strikes the loudest chord. It relates how Mastodon works similar to email. Due to this and the fact it also looks and feels much like Twitter helps spark my interest.

I am, after all, a social creature who favors text over photos or videos when “connecting” with my fellow humans. And I miss the old days of original Twitter with its simple restriction of 140 characters per Tweet. And of course, like Twitter of yore, Mastodon is labeled a “microblogging” platform. Anything like blogging gets my attention.

Another feature of Mastodon that is most intriguing to me: a plain ol’ feed that’s in reverse chronological order and shows only people you follow — no ads, no sponsored posts, no algorithm amplification. That sounds so quaint or elementary, yet it also sounds so refreshing in its straightforward simplicity.

So I’m learning more and will keep an eye on the pachyderm in the room. Maybe it will grow more popular or powerful and fulfill a promise like that of the early internet or the modern Indieweb, such that people can directly interact quickly and easily online without the problems of web 2.0 social media. Maybe we’ll see a shift away from centralized and commercialized platforms like Facebook.

While I don’t like social media as run by billionaires — Musk and Zuckerberg — Mastodon might be different enough to be worth joining. Like email, maybe Mastodon has enough old-school wisdom to last well into the future.

Final note: I’ve been off Facebook, Twitter, etc, since April ’22. I currently only use social-cataloging site, Grouvee, for gaming stuff (it’s like Goodreads but for games), along with its forum.

Have you considered Mastodon?

Reply by email.

Return Of The Blogosphere

A new article for the new year, this one from the Verge about bringing back personal blogging. How could I NOT comment on this one!? The idea is simple: since social media has devolved in recent years, proving to be less than ideal, and since people remain social, then the collective cyber culture should once again embrace the benefits of blogging. To that, yes. A resounding one indeed.

“In the beginning, there were blogs, and they were the original social web. We built community. We found our people. We wrote personally. We wrote frequently. We self-policed, and we linked to each other so that newbies could discover new and good blogs. I want to go back there.” — Monique Judge

Those of us who were online “back in the day” remember blogging in its heyday and can thus return to it with ready understanding while also being fueled by nostalgia. It’d be like going home.

But what about “digital natives” from Gen Z who never experienced life before Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat? I think their image/video-centric online nature would find text-based blogging too much to tackle. They might even wonder how one can feasibly type a 500-word post via smartphone keyboard (spoiler alert: use a laptop keyboard).

Despite potential friction between old-school blogging and the up-and-coming generation of web surfers, I have high hopes for a return of the blogosphere and think it’s worth promoting. If traditional bloggers like myself want to help a new wave of bloggers find their footing, maybe we simply inundate the web with blog posts about blogging and its benefits, causing such topics to rise in the ranks of Google searches.

For some, blogging never really went away. Instead, it simply became forgotten, neglected, or ignored as the attention of many was distracted by the shiny new social media networks, which admittedly did make posting stuff online easier and quicker than ever. You might recall that Twitter, at first, was labeled as a “micro-blogging” service.

Side note: though I’ve used different blogging platforms over the years and have also had several different social media services, there’s one site I never joined: Tumblr. I mention it because, unlike the defunct other social media places, Tumblr seems to have retained most of its features and appeal over time, despite some changes. It might be worth promoting.

Bonus note: Blogger began in 1999 and — get this — still exists today! I’m blogging on it right now.

If Gen. Z finds blogging too archaic, they might instead find Tumblr more accessible.

In any case, I’m all for blogging and the blogosphere. And if enough new young people flock to it, blogging might benefit, evolving for the better with a renaissance.

Do you think blogging stands a chance of seeing a second golden age?

Update 1–23–23

Here’s a relevant quote from Manton Reece of micro.blog:

“People were pulled away from blogging, drawn to social networks that were faster to post to and easier to interact with friends. It’s our job to pull them back to blogs by bringing the best parts of old-school blogging and modern social networks together.”

Fully Rendered In Dark Mode


A quick update for the blog. My site www.jasonmcfadden.com now has an official new blog name, “Fully Rendered.” It’s also now sporting a dark theme.

After migrating from Jason Journals at WordPress to Blogger, I had named my new blog jasonmcfadden to match the domain name and keep things simple. And being unsure what direction my post content would go, I made the blog minimal and mostly white. It was clean, maybe too spartan, and the header image — the site URL — felt a bit lacking.

Before. Light theme.


After. Dark theme.

With my new blog name and header, I’ve added a custom graphic. It’s a pixel art profile image of an RPG character I made using RPG Maker MZ (which, by the way, runs on my M1 MacBook Air, no problems).

Here’s my explanation for the new blog name:

“Fully Rendered” originally came from a phrase I repeated ad infinitum when exclaiming how Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo was developed using pre-rendered 3D computer graphics. The name eventually became my gaming avatar pseudonym. It stands for both modern video gaming and computing technology.

Previously, at Jason Journals, my blogging focused on mobile computing and video gaming. Once again, that’s my focus. It’s fun to geek out on my hobbies and interests.

What do you think of the new look and feel?

Social Internet Versus Social Media

One of my favorite bloggers is computer scientist Cal Newport. I found this great quote on a podcast (at 50:42) from 2019 wherein he discussed his then recent book, Digital Minimalism. The context here is Cal’s apt distinction between the social-internet and social-media:

“When you go back out to the wild social internet, it’s such a better experience. And so this is why I’ve been a blogger for a long time. I think the blogosphere, though weirder and harder to navigate is, for example, a much better repository of expression and information than, say, Facebook or Twitter is.”

This resonated with me of course; I’m a blogger on Blogger and still enjoy the blogosphere (e.g. WordPress Reader). I don’t use social media anymore and don’t miss it. And I’ve written about this before, saying The Web Itself Is The Social Network.

Though engaging, algorithmically curated silos — like the Facebook Newsfeed — are inferior to the wide open web where individual blogs once flourished. Outside of social media, many people enjoy the web’s data as the internet-backbone serves up info via mobile apps. And beyond that, most people click links no further than one Google search result deep. But it’s a privilege to surf the social internet from site to site and page to page, bookmarking, copying URLs, or commenting on someone’s specialized blog.

As Newport points out, it’s a bit harder for some people to navigate the web to its fullest, discovering new sites and blogs via ubiquitous hyperlinks. But I’d say sowing the extra effort is well worth the abundant harvest of uniquely expressive blogs, deeply informative websites, and utilitarian web apps. Staying within the confines of a limited feed strips the web, and the web surfer, of a rich internet experience.

Would you rather give up the open web or social media?

Choosing Blogger In 2022

After several years of blogging on WordPress, I’m leaving to blog on one of the first and oldest platforms: Blogger. But with its ancient internet age and Google’s propensity to cancel products/services, why would anyone in their right mind choose Blogger in 2022? Because in my case, it’s not the mind.

My mind chose WordPress; my heart chooses Blogger.

Back in 2017, WordPress wasn’t my first platform of choice. I actually chose Blogger first and, at the last minute, changed my mind. I picked the most logical choice (thanks, brain), the CMS that was more viable, popular, and had greater potential.

Today, I think WordPress remains the more rational choice over Blogger. In fact, during the plan/pricing upheaval this past April/May, although I was preparing to leave WordPress for Blogger, I again choseWordPress. And as it turns out, WordPress reverted from its radical new plans to the previous tiered offerings.

So why leave now for Blogger?

The Catalysts

In late May, when I re-chose WordPress and cut off Blogger, I was resolute and settled in. Forget Blogger, it’s in the past; unpack my bags and keep moving forward with WordPress.

But something happened.

While reading the book, Biblical Minimalism, I checked to see if there was a website for it. I typed the search terms into DuckDuckGo and — whoawww.biblicalminimalism.com has a site on Blogger with posts as recent as August 2022!

I found a current blog hosted by Blogger on a topic I like.

That hit me.

I realized Blogger, to this day, is alive, active, and I could be there too. In fact, had I ultimately chosen Blogger in 2017, I could have been blogging there for the past 5 years.

Next thing I know, my fingers were on auto-pilot, migrating all my Jason Journals posts over to Blogger at a rapid pace. I resumed the process I had started back in April amidst the WordPress uncertainty. I was primed. So when I realized my heart was still with Blogger, I just went with it! Risk accepted.

“…’cause I can’t fight this feeling anymore…”

Some Reasons

Nostalgia

Sure, Blogger is ancient. But the platform’s “oldness” is part of the attraction for me. I blogged there first; I’ve got nostalgia fuel.

Availability

Yes, Google could kill Blogger at any moment. But I figure that even if Google decides to sunset it, the company would most likely give advance notice, probably a year before final shut-down. I could enjoy Blogger while it lasts, having time to migrate back to WordPress or switch to something else like Ghost.

I also figure that since Google has had plenty of opportunity to end Blogger — like during the deconstruction of Google+ — yet after all these years still hasn’t, then maybe Blogger is here to stay.

Simplicity, Flexibility, Affordability

The biggest reason why I choose Blogger is the same as before: it’s simple.

Four Reasons Why I Chose Blogger - February 7, 2017

Blogger as a platform is all I need, nothing more. It’s minimal and enough. It’s also flexible and “free.” I can edit the HTML if I wish, and it costs no money.

The fact that Google owns Blogger doesn’t bother me. Google has stewarded it well enough all these years. And since I frequent YouTube that’s owned by Google, why not also enjoy Blogger?

Text-based

Since 2018, WordPress has been increasingly block-based. But at Blogger, I can work with text in a WYSIWYG editor for posts and pages. Love it. No more blocks, thank you.

Is this a crazy move? Did you use Blogger back in the day?

Leaving WordPress

Hello, readers. A monumental shift is afoot at Jason Journals, announcing both a new name and home for the blog. Though it’s the end of an era, it’s also the beginning of another.

Jason Journals has been steadily going since 2017. Blogging about any topic, rather than a niche, has helped me post regularly for several years. That’s not changing. I’m just switching platforms.

What’s the new blog name?

jasonmcfadden

What will the blog be about?

The same as Jason Journals: anything.

That said, I’ve been de-emphasizing computing and gaming and re-focusing on minimalism, simplicity, and reading. So I’m writing more about less, but I’ll still cover previous topics. I might share personal stuff too.

Overall, I’m still Jason and still “journaling.” Essentially, my blog isn’t changing much. It’s partly why the new name is simply jasonmcfadden. Like Jason Journals, it’s my personal blog.

Where’s the new blog home?

Blogger

What’s happening to Jason Journals on WordPress?

  • I’ll leave it static/dormant for now and at some point remove the custom URL.
  • The contact email for Jason Journals is replaced by the one for jasonmcfadden
  • All Jason Journals WordPress posts have been migrated to jasonmcfadden on Blogger
What’s to know about jasonmcfadden on Blogger?
  • You can subscribe to jasonmcfadden posts via the feed in a reader
  • You can follow jasonmcfadden via the Blogger widget
  • You can comment on my posts at Blogger
  • You can email me to chat about jasonmcfadden posts

Why Blogger?

The risk of using Blogger, which Google could sunset anytime, is real. I share a story and the reasons why I’m Choosing Blogger In 2022 in a separate post, publishing soon at my new site.

For a partial answer to why, here’s the link to one of my first posts, which published only on Blogger before I ultimately launched on WordPress back in 2017:

Four Reasons Why I Chose Blogger - February 7, 2017

Also, I’ve published new posts at jasonmcfadden that are not on Jason Journals, so be sure to check out what you’ve missed so far:

  1. Progress To Less - September 29, 2022
  2. Screen Addiction Harms Relationships - September 26, 2022
  3. The Batman Review - September 24, 2022
  4. iPhone Less - September 23, 2022

Thanks to WordPress for hosting my blog reliably over the years. And thank you, readers, for taking your valuable time to read and comment on my posts.

I hope to see you at jasonmcfadden and look forward to this next endeavor.

WordPress Plan Roller Coaster Ends

I’m really not sure where to begin with this. Last week, I read two new emails from WordPress announcing its latest moves in the perplexing plan upheaval of 2022. After months of plan changes, flip-flopping from radical reduction to compromising capitulation, now the newly introduced plans have already been axed. Their short-lived reign was quickly usurped by none other than the former plans, fully reinstated. What’s old is new again.

While elated to see the old plans make a triumphant return, I also feel whiplashed. And though I was deeply troubled to lose the plans back in early April, I’m now somewhat concerned for those who adopted the new “Pro” plan only to see it so soon vanished.

Before, there were four paid plans to choose from beyond the free option. They were all replaced by a single paid plan. After much outcry against the titanic shift, WordPress promised to continue altering the deal for the better. So then a new middle plan was introduced in May called, “Starter.” Along with these new plans, there were to be introduced à la carte add-ons.

Honestly, that’s a lot of plan disruption to track. And now with the latest plot twist, the pendulum has swung almost completely back to where it began with the former plans! There are also new add-on options. It’s all a bit confusing at this point. My guess is that WordPress, after much tweaking, finally decided it might as well just reinstate what worked best before.

Whatever the causes or goals, I’m very happy to see the old plans return. I was accustomed to them, so their familiarity brings comfort to this blogger. I love the affordable tiers. And it’s great to see that my “Personal” plan is no longer labeled “legacy;” it’s returned to legit status.

There are à la carte options to sweeten the deal. As of now, I see only three though, and one of them, Ad-removal, doesn’t apply to my “Personal” plan as the feature is already included. The other two options, Custom CSS and Premium Themes, are nice. But at $2 extra per month each, that would make my $4/mo plan become $8/mo. At that price point, I’d just upgrade to the “Premium” plan for the same cost. But I have the option to choose one add-on and pay $6/mo. Not too bad.

And while the add-ons are available for my Personal plan, the email marketing positions them as though only intended for “Free” sites, letting them gain a few key features at little cost, with the ability to easily move to a paid plan. Of course, a free site with paid add-ons might as well be a paid plan.Add on options to your free site. Or your paid site.

So in the end, as WordPress has swung back to the former plans, I’m relieved, happy, and…cautious. With so much upheaval since April, I just feel a twinge of unsettlement, for lack of a better word. I feel it for myself, knowing now that at any moment, WordPress can radically disrupt what I rely on. And I feel it for those who bought into the new Pro plan but now have suddenly had it pulled back so soon. I wouldn’t blame them for feeling like it was a bait-n-switch.

I don’t envy WordPress as it may find itself in a difficult position, trying to please most users most of the time. I imagine however hard it tries, there will always be a subset of upset, a group of displeased customers. I was in that boat for a couple months and nearly jumped ship. So I guess I want to give WP the benefit of the doubt, trusting they’re trying to fulfill business obligations and meet customer demand.


There you have it, fellow bloggers and readers, the latest in this plan predicament. If you care to recall the whole saga, here are my previous posts on the subject:
  1. WordPress Plan Changes Concerning April 2, 2022
  2. New WordPress Plans Don’t Impress April 5, 2022
  3. Checking Out WordPress Alternatives April 20, 2022
  4. A Future With Blogger May 2, 2022
  5. WordPress Plans New Middle Plan May 2, 2022
  6. Pressing WordPress Woes May 19, 2022
  7. Unpacking My Bags At WordPress May 21, 2022
  8. WordPress Starter Plan A Good Start May 26, 2022

Thanks for following along.

So where do you now stand? Sticking with WordPress? Still planning to leave? Might you return? What good alternatives have you found?

Google Retires An Ongoing Initiative

Google is sunsetting…something. The headline of course grabbed me, and it gave me a new thought. Since Google is somewhat infamous for frequently killing off products and services, I often wonder why or how Blogger is still alive.


From Thurrott:

“Google is retiring Android Auto for Phone Screens for good. Google had already made the app incompatible on Android 12 handsets last year…”

-Laurent Giret


My new realization is that maybe Google only retires current or ongoing initiatives. Products or services that Google has launched with a purpose and a vision may get sunsetted when either the entire initiative is deemed unprofitable or the effort to seize a market opportunity undergoes a big pivot.

So Blogger doesn’t get retired because it’s not an ongoing Google initiative. Google isn’t pushing Blogger forward with progress; there exists no discernible efforts or resources behind Blogger that need to be reallocated. It’s simply a relic of the past that has somehow survived, and it’s been pushed aside into a quiet corner of a dusty basement underneath a Google datacenter in a nondescript location.

It is quite curious how Blogger, around 2012, was being integrated with Google+, which was once a new Google social initiative, but was then decoupled from the social network. And while Google+ was retired, Blogger somehow was left to live or maybe left to die, yet it persists.

For the record, I’m glad Blogger still exists today and hope it remains for nostalgia if nothing else.

Products and services (tools) are usually means to an end (results), to an initiative with a purpose. When an initiative ends or changes, the associated product or service, no longer needed, typically follows suit. But in the case of Blogger, it somehow lives beyond whatever initiative Google had for it when purchased in 2003, as far as I can tell.

Any Blogger initiative seems long dead, though Blogger itself lives on for now.

WordPress Starter Plan A Good Start

Following April’s announcements of the new Free and Pro plans, WordPress has announced the Starter plan. And as projected in a forum message, WordPress slotted the plan at a price point between the others at $5/mo, which is one-third the cost of the Pro tier at $15/mo. Albeit plans still require an annual rather than monthly payment. That said, the Starter price is much more within the realm of the former Personal and Premium plans ($4 and $8 respectively). But are the features comparable to those former plans? And how does the Starter plan stack against the Pro level?

I was excited to see the announcement in my inbox, “WordPress has already set its new middle plan!” A forum message said it was coming soon, but I didn’t expect it this soon. Good work, WordPress!

At first glance, the Starter plan is off to a good start, featuring:

  • Custom domain
  • 6GB image storage
  • Simple payments options
  • Google Analytics

These are nice additions to the Free plan, especially the custom domain. Sadly, though, the Starter Plan has a glaring omission: ads can’t be removed. So not only must a hobby blogger pay for the plan, readers are still subject to seeing ads, and the blogger doesn’t earn any money from those ads.

Five dollars per month with obtrusive ads on my blog? No way.

Being grandfathered with the now legacy Personal plan at $4/mo., I get a better deal, paying less money while including the removal of ads. I’ll keep that as long as possible.

The Starter plan’s lack of Jetpack Essentials also seems problematic. A starter plan should start with…the essentials.

But there’s more to the story and reason for hope. WordPress also said it’d soon be adding a la carte add-ons across its various plans. It’s highly likely that one such add-on will be ad-removal. While needing to add the ability to subtract ads is like puzzling math, I’d be glad to have the option and suspect many would purchase the must-have add-on.

Aligning with the classic “small, medium, large” layout, one may create a new website or blog with three plan options:

  1. Free
  2. Starter
  3. Pro

And with Starter, one can either upgrade to Pro or downgrade to Free, giving people flexibility.

Thankfully, WordPress has stayed true to its word. I expect to see a la carte options soon enough. As for monthly payments, keep in mind WordPress said it would “experiment with bringing back” those, meaning there’s no guarantee they’ll return; one can hope.

WordPress invites you to comment on the new Starter plan and what’s important to you; here’s mine. Give it a “like” if you agree.

Is the Starter plan worth it? Will you renew your legacy plan or wait to see the a la carte add-ons?

Unpacking My Bags At WordPress

Over the past few weeks, I shared a handful of posts expressing unease towards WordPress. My bags were packed; I was ready to move away. It started with the surprising and sudden plan upheaval in early April, which soured me. Stuck in a rut, feeling unsettled, I sought firm blogging ground. Many other bloggers reasonably felt likewise. But for my part, I think I let negativity taint my view a bit much, seeing WordPress only through the opposite of rose-colored glasses. My view was all thorns and no rose. That’s now changed.

A few things happened this week that turned the tide

(Note: Originally posted at WordPress)

One day after reading a lot about the IndieWeb and other bloggers’ adventures, I was refreshed with the optimism of the Open Web, Open Source software, and the like. WordPress is part of that. I also saw positive examples of blogs reflecting said virtues. And I found more services that work well with WordPress, like Buy me a Coffee, which is now on my About page.

“We believe in democratizing publishing and the freedoms that come with open source.”
WordPress Mission

WordPress’ popularity means almost anything and everything related to blogging works with it, but most of those same things ignore Blogger. Google, which owns Blogger, doesn’t even mention it when promoting web creation and instead promotes WordPress, for example.

I was reminded recently that Blogger.com — a good and simple blog platform — is not the best or wisest place for me to move to. It’s something I knew but tried to sugarcoat, I think. For example, I wanted to try MarsEdit, a native blogging app for the Mac. But I quickly learned it dropped support for Blogger since Google dropped some Blogger features a couple years ago.

Serving two blog masters doesn’t work


I was posting to Blogger, building my blog there, and migrating old posts, which was taking much time. I mapped a custom URL there too, basically mirroring my WordPress blog and trying to keep both going. Being split between them, though, was causing issues. I couldn’t wait anymore and had to make a decision: Blogger or WordPress?

So with revitalized hope, resolve, and an open mind, I started tinkering again with my WordPress test site, not for Full Site Editing but for just learning all the new block-based objects for sidebar widgets. I decided to ignore all the “legacy” widgets; they’re the past. In short time, I saw results I liked. Then I knew I could keep my blog on WordPress, tailoring it to my tastes.

Hindsight is good stuff


I was overlooking the positives of WordPress and magnifying the negatives. That’s unbalanced. With everything, there are pros and cons; the former should outweigh the latter.

For example, although WordPress has grown more complex over the years, it’s also more capable or robust than ever. It has many options, and while that can mar simplicity, it also provides many opportunities and flexibility. Looking at the positives makes a big difference.

Here are two things I love about WordPress, which Blogger lacks: word count and a native iOS app. For writing, a word count feature is of great value. And the “free” WP app on iOS is highly functional, stable, and well designed. It works across my iPhone and iPad with aplomb. I say it’s “free” but consider it part of my paid subscription plan. It’s worth it!

A good outlook


Honestly, I’m relieved that I can stay put. Stopping work on Blogger lets me rest in WordPress. I’ve been here for years and want to keep my investment and the benefits I’ve reaped, like meeting readers online, enjoying discussion, and discovering other bloggers in the community. The WordPress Reader fosters its own blogosphere of a sort.

What about those plan change issues?

As I’ve shared, WordPress said they will be making things better with: a new middle plan, à la carte add-ons across all plans, and monthly payments too. I believe WordPress will do it, and I’m sure the upcoming changes will be better.

The upset I first felt in April, with its ripple effects, has finally washed out. Confident in WordPress going forward, I’ve unpacked my blogging bags; I’m home.

What are your thoughts? Feeling the love for WordPress?

Pressing WordPress Woes

There’s a disturbance in the force of WordPress; I’ve sensed it.

And now my inner disquiet has been further stirred. An article caught my attention, citing a report that indicates declining WordPress market share for the first time ever, which is apparently caused by performance issues, increased complexity, and a lengthy yet unfinished release of the Full Site Editor.

These problems struck me.

Complexity - Less about blogging, more about website building

The issues seem somewhat speculative, but based on the numerous comments in the article, there’s some consensus about the Gutenberg/FSE long roll-out being a problem along with increased platform complexity overall. And based on my own experience with the Full Site Editor and other changes to the platform in the past few years, I have to agree.

I’ve had a growing sense that WordPress has been evolving from a simple publishing platform to a full-fledged website builder. So instead of a focus on getting text-based articles online, WordPress has prioritized getting entire websites online. Where bloggers once shared their thoughts, now entrepreneurs sell their products. Being all things to all people is a burdensome load.

This adds complexity; I’ve certainly experienced it in the newer block widgets under site customization; I prefer the now “legacy” widgets. And I’m only using the default WordPress.com, ignoring plugins.


Full Site Editing pushes complexity further with the classic theme system being slowly deprecated by block-enabled site construction. Worse is that the FSE is still in beta yet is pushed on new sites.

I recently created a new test site to begin learning the FSE. Working with an import of my existing live site, I was befuddled on my first attempt. Reading a few helpful articles and watching a good WP tutorial video, I felt some promise and gained a little hope. So I sat down on three separate occasions to purposefully practice the FSE. But I made little progress. And on attempt three, I ran into a show-stopping bug. A Template Part I tried to create simply hung the editor and was never fixed.

At that point, having invested a few hours over several days, I didn’t see enough return; the results were lackluster and the process was cumbersome. Frustrated and disappointed, I gave up, preferring the classic theme system — which, by the way, already worked quite well.

I know the world doesn’t stand still, but as I’ve grown, the saying, “Leave well-enough alone” has grown on me.

There's also disruption

All of this piles on top of my deep dissatisfaction with the hosting plan changes disruption announced in April. In fact, I’m surprised it wasn’t cited as part of the cause for the decline in WordPress market share. I already posted about the pricing issues here and here and here. And though WordPress has said they will address or alleviate the current structure’s weaknesses, I’m still inclined to move to an alternative blogging host.

I checked out WordPress alternatives like Wix and should maybe try again. I tried Ghost and really like it a lot. But the site I’m loving the most, after all these years, is good old Blogger; I’m quite fond of it. In fact, I’ve been migrating most of my Jason Journals posts to it over the past few weeks. At some point after migration is done, I’ll reassess the blogging landscape once more and then decide to either hold onto WordPress a little while longer, or I’ll pack my bags and move on.

For now, Jason Journals is tentatively hosted at WordPress.

Update 5/19/22

I happened upon more evidence of WordPress evolving, or devolving, from a simple blogging platform to a full CMS/website builder. Consider the credible web-knowledgable source of the following quote - Manton Reece in his book Indie Microblogging:


“In recent years, WordPress has drifted away from its roots in blogging. When I attended a WordCamp in 2017, no one was talking about blogs. It was all about using WordPress as a full CMS.
WordPress’s Gutenberg block editor has also captured most of the development attention in the WordPress community, completing the shift away from simple, text blog posts to richer, full web pages. Gutenberg represented a multi-year vision from Mullenweg to make WordPress’s default editor competitive with modern blog platforms like Medium."

Jason Blogs On Coffee

The Jason McFadden blog is now using Buy Me a Coffee!


There are a few links and buttons on the blog to make supporting the blog easy. Look for the big orange button in the sidebar or see the button on the About page.

I kindly ask for a donation of just $1 to support the blog. My goal is to simply earn $20 a year - that’s it! - to pay for the blog’s domain and mailbox.

Please show your generous support.

Beyond $20…then there’s more coffee.

I don’t blog about coffee, but I often blog with coffee.

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Thank you so much for supporting the blog.

Who Let The Blogs Out? Review

In the heyday of blogging, and the year (2004) Facebook first launched, Who Let The Blogs Out? was published. Author Biz Stone’s answer was, of course, bloggers, along with the early pioneers of the first blogging platforms. Blogging meant anyone could post anything, since it enabled the masses to publish online and en masse, which coalesced into the blogosphere. I enjoyed reading about blogging, from the view atop its pinnacle and in the rearview following the proliferation of social media.


The book covered both the big picture and the small details about blogging, such as: 

  • Its backstory 
  • How it was born 
  • How it grew 
  • What caused it to flourish 
  • Its effects on culture and society 
  • Its benefits 
  • Why blog 
  • Who blogs 
  • What to blog 
  • How to blog 

Biz Stone detailed what was likely the greatest impetus for the boon of blogging: the introduction of Blogger, one of the first of several blogging platforms, which was created by Evan Williams in 1999, later bought by Google in 2003, and is still alive and well today after 23 years.


The blog-o-what?


Stone pointed out how blogging enabled anyone to publish anything online because it didn’t require technical knowledge; “normal” people — who don’t know HTML, programming, or coding — could post online. This allowed more people to be on the internet, which expanded the world wide web.

He also rightly noticed that, besides individual blogs, there also emerged a natural interconnection between blogs through hyperlinking. This came to be known as the “blogosphere,” and the phenomenon of links was paramount:
“Hyperlinking is rooted not in technology but in our desire to make connections, learn, and share knowledge.” p9
“Links are the currency of the blogosphere.” p91
And on page 192:
“I propose a name for the intellectual cyberspace we bloggers occupy: the Blogosphere.” - William Quick, January 1, 2002
“The blogosphere is the network of blogs that lives within the World Wide Web — a web within a web — but it is more than documents and hyperlinks. Behind it all are many individuals who combine to form an aggregated entity with its own force; it is a new media ecosystem with a complex social culture based on knowledge, entertainment, and the sharing of ideas.”


What is blogging?


Biz defined and described blogs and blogging:
“A blog is a collection of digital content that, when examined over a period of time, exposes the intellectual soul of its author or authors… Blogging is the act of creating, composing, and publishing this content; and a blogger is the person behind the curtain.” p35
“Blogging is an information saturated lifestyle filled with contemplation and expression” p116
Stone went on to break down blogging into basic parts, and then he talked about something vital at its core,
“The real heart of a blog is that it represents a person — a blogger — whose thoughts, ideas, and commentary are being instant-messaged to the web as easily as they could an e-mail. p42–43
While reading these things, I couldn’t help but notice how much of what he described can also be seen in Twitter, which was co-founded by Blogger’s co-creator, Evan Williams, who later also co-founded Medium.


Blogging as social networking


Most fascinating to me, the author covered how blogging relates to social media, as some of its seeds are found in blogging. At the time the book was published, social media was nascent. Biz wrote on page 100 that social networking was inferior to blogging but had great potential. In comparison, he said blogging has been “the ultimate network tool for quite some time now.”

About blogrolling, a popular feature on blogs, Biz said on pages 101–102 that while social networking sites let you add friends, blogrolling was more significant because it represented an “intellectual attraction” and was more thoughtful than a friending or dating service.

Besides blogrolling, he also discussed how commenting and comment moderation, a feature initially absent from blogs, allowed more direct interaction between bloggers, giving blogs a more social aspect.

“…blogging is a naturally occurring social network based on intellectual attraction.” p192
 

Other blogging points


One topic that severely dates the book is called, “Moblogging” or mobile blogging. Before the advent of smartphones, flip phones had started to introduce rudimentary cameras and limited connectivity. On pages 128–129, Biz talked about the potential of mobile camera phones with web access for mobile blogging of info via text and photos. What he described was prescient, knowing how far technology has advanced since then; all the author wrote has come true and then some!

On blog design, Biz listed two keys, that blogs be easily readable and navigable. He also addressed how a blog’s design uniquely represents a person’s character or personality in some ways. The layout, theme, colors, fonts, icons, images, and even the particular widgets or gagdets in a sidebar all combine in a particular style suited to the blogger.

I point out that this contrasts greatly with social media profiles where everyone’s looks mostly the same, so it’s an aspect of blogging I greatly appreciate. And when the distinct look and feel of a blog is coupled with a blogger’s unique voice written in posts, the richness of blogging shines.

Chapter five discussed the importance of blogging in, by, and for businesses. Chapter six talked about the rise and influence of political blogs, called “warblogging” soon after 9/11. It also covered how blogging affected the educational industry and journalism. Finally, chapter seven talked about how blog posts went viral, in a time before there were “like” and “share” buttons made popular by social media and its network effects.


Summarizing stuff


Some concluding quotes and tidbits:
“Blogging kickstarted a revolution in hyperconnectivity and communication via the web — it was the spark of life that the Internet was missing.” p221
Blogging made the web not just readable but also writeable. And it flourished at a time when both social media networking and social bookmarking sites were in their infancy. The blogosphere then was more social or better networked than early social media.

I thoroughly enjoyed Who Let The Blogs Out? Its detailed content on blogging was historical, nostalgic, insightful, and in some points prescient since social media today is an ancestor of blogging and is partly based on the same foundational principles of the internet. I also like the book for its storytelling and presentation. Biz Stone wrote clearly, candidly, and used humor, like what you might find in a personal blog.

I recommend this book to anyone who appreciates web-surfing and the internet or has any interest in blogging or social media. Your call to action: read the book. :)

WordPress Plans New Middle Plan

It’s been about a month since WordPress radically altered the deal with new binary plans. Now there’s new word on its plans to introduce a new middle plan between the ‘free’ and ‘pro’ tier, along with other plans in the works.


Closing the comments thread on Pricing Feedback, first opened April 3, WordPress announced under the radar a list of plans regarding their recently changed plan structure:

  • We are currently working on launching a new lower-priced plan with a price point in-between the Free plan and the Pro plan.
  • Following the launch of this new plan we will be revisiting our discounted pricing in a few regional areas.
  • Following that we still plan to launch a series of à la carte individual feature add-ons that can be purchased one-off across our various plans.
  • We also plan to experiment with bringing back monthly pricing at some point. 

All along, I and others have called for, at minimum, a three-tier setup to adequately meet the needs of most. It’s the classic “small, medium, and large” concept, where it’s easy to nudge up the ladder as needed.

‘Free’ is fine for those getting started or whose needs are simple, like a static landing site.

‘Medium’ would be great for the numerous hobby, lifestyle, and personal bloggers like me.

‘Pro’ seems fine for those who need everything and the kitchen sink.

I’m glad to also see the plan to bring back MONTHLY PRICING. This will be a serious win, assuming the price-point is near the previous middle range.

Finally, the latest word is that the previously announced forthcoming à la carte options are slated for after the new middle plan is launched. So this is coming later than I expected.

With what should result in three pricing plans plus à la carte options across the board, this will likely address the needs of most WordPress.com customers. Overall, having three plans keeps things simple enough, but what remains to be seen is if the flexibility of à la carte add-ons introduces too much complexity.

While it’s very good to see this new information, I’ve already gained much momentum in seeking an alternative to WordPress. The plan changes at the beginning of April upended my secure position and brought some other WordPress related issues to the forefront, like my displeasure with the somewhat too complicated website-building paradigm.

I’ve now sat down on three separate occasions to learn and practice the new Full Site Editor, and so far it’s a strike out. Though hopeful at first, I found the FSE to be a bit confusing, lacking in theme style, and buggy.

When I tried to create my own Template Part, it simply wouldn’t work; it never loaded. Refreshing and restarting the browser didn’t fix anything. Sure, the FSE is labeled beta, but that means it will likely be several months before version one is nailed down. That means waiting for the FSE to get good, while already waiting for the WordPress pricing structure to get good.

Who likes waiting?

I had been waiting just for news on the à la carte options, and the closest we have now are the above plans. Maybe the new middle plan will be comparable to the previous ‘Personal’ and ‘Premium’ plans. But I might go ahead and migrate away from WordPress.

What are your plans with WordPress at this point?

A Future With Blogger

With WordPress shenanigans in April shaking up my blogging foundation, one alternate platform I’ve been wondering about is good old-fashioned Blogger, where anyone can still create — after 23 years! — a free blogspot domain through Google. But there’s the elephant-in-the-room question: if or when will Google sunset Blogger? I’ve tried to find a definitive answer.

Blogger Buzz

The last direct source for Blogger news was Blogger Buzz at buzz.blogger.com, which now redirects to blogger.googleblog.com. Sadly, nothing new has been posted there since spring 2020. Also, the official @Blogger account on Twitter was taken private long ago and remains silent. The only other current announcements for the platform can be found on Blogger’s official help forum, though the last one was in spring 2021. The Community Forum is still active with support, so that’s a positive.

It’s been over a year since the last news about Blogger. Sure, there’s the saying that, “No news is good news.” But in Google’s case, when there used to be buzz about Blogger, crickets are a nervous sound. Is it the breath-catching silence before a coup de gras? Well, I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion because, as far as I can tell otherwise, Blogger is alive and well after all these years. Eerily quiet, kind of; dead silent maybe; but not dead.


Google for Creators


An indication of Blogger’s future — or lack thereof — may come from Google’s latest initiative. Rather than promoting online publishing or blogging, it celebrates creating. The site is called Google for Creators, found at creators.google, with an official blog here. It was announced on the Blogger Community forum on November 20, 2020.

The announcement clearly stated that Blogger news would now be found on Google for Creators. But about a year-and-a-half later, there has been none. After searching the site’s headlines, the blogging references I found were in relation to WordPress, not Blogger. That’s not comforting to anyone relying on Blogger.

It’s noteworthy, though, that Google promotes website building for creators so that they own their content and avoid being siloed within the walled-gardens of social media. But even with a focus on website building, Google doesn’t promote Blogger, whereas WordPress is clearly and directly supported. It’s like Google neglects its own child in favor of the neighbor’s kid. Again, not the best indication that Blogger has a bright future ahead.

Here are examples:

On this page for website building, Blogger doesn’t get a mention, but WordPress is clearly supported. Google says, “Explore the products and tools from Google that can help you find success as a creator,” but never lists Blogger. Isn’t Blogger a product or tool from Google that can be used for web site creation on some level? 

Similarly, Google has an entire SiteKit to help with website creation, but it’s for WordPress, not Blogger. SiteKit includes Google AdSense and Analytics, which are already built-in to Blogger, so why not promote or at least mention Blogger?

Tellingly, this page dedicated to websites lacks any Blogger references. But again, there’s WordPress support. I love that Google is heralding the benefits and virtues of having a personal website online such as owning your own content, having a home base, and monetization. Yet all these are things Blogger is capable of, so why not even mention it?

Finally, there’s a Google for Creators YouTube video talking about website building. It mentions Google Domains for domain provider, and three website builders/hosts mentioned are Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress. But sorry to say, Blogger received zero mention.

Your Own Web Home


The most positive aspect of Google for Creators is found in this article. It has a brief historical review of Blogger, referring to the still running platform only in past tense. Note that it’s within the greater context of creating content online. What’s most encouraging from Google in this context is the definitive trend or push away from social media and back to individual websites (perhaps self-hosted), which is something that bloggers and indie web supporters can highly appreciate.

It says this about Blogger:

“In 1999, Blogger and LiveJournal launched their free online “web blog” platforms, putting simple publishing tools in the hands of creators (with Tumblr following years later). Though blogs were hosted on the blogging platforms’ websites, they allowed creators to build their own digital homes on the web.”

Then it says this about web creation:

“While social media content is proliferating wildly, creators know that they lose some control over their content by posting on these sites and apps. Some creators are now shifting back to building and owning their own home on the web — a website to host their own content…”


Blogger Future


Regarding Blogger’s future, news is scarce. I’ve previously linked to what little I’ve found in What Happened To Blogger? These suggest that Blogger, though not as popular as in its days of Blogger Buzz, is not destined for the Google graveyard.

I’ve figured if Google was going to retire Blogger, it likely would have done so already. So the fact Blogger remains in a relatively healthy condition may be a sign it will likely continue its current steady trajectory. 
One can easily imagine that Blogger probably requires little overhead to be maintained at this point since it’s a simple and well established platform. In fact, due to Blogger’s age, it might be so deeply integrated within Google that it would take more work to retire it than to simply maintain it. 

In the end, there are no definitive answers, only speculation, hope, and risk. There’s a lot to like about Blogger, and I’m still seriously considering switching from WordPress.com back to Blogger. If I do, I’d be proud to inject a little more life into the classic blogging platform. I think I might enjoy it while it lasts.

Did you ever use Blogger before?

Who Let The Blogs Out?

This week, I found an old book (copyright 2004) about blogging by Biz Stone, who helped create Xanga nearly two decades ago. Amazon was selling the paperback for $5 so I grabbed it.

Through reading it, I hope to find a good bit of blogging history and gain a better idea how the popular weblog and blogosphere were understood and appreciated between blogging’s infancy and adolescence — or its height in the internet zeitgeist.

The book was written around the time Google bought Blogger, so I hope it sheds light on that in some way (my first blog, with Blogger, was circa 2006). And if nothing else, I think it will be worthwhile to absorb some of Biz Stone’s mind about one of my favorite hobbies. 

I’ve mentioned a blogging renaissance before, and I hope this book will spur me further to call for a blogging resurgence. For all of social media’s convenience, I still think most people would be better without it and should rely on good old-fashioned blogging instead. The web itself is the social network.

Do you remember blogging in its heyday?

Checking Out WordPress Alternatives

April started with WordPress.com quietly pushing new unwelcome plans with all-or-nothing pricing. Like many others, I’ve written about it (here and there). Besides causing much consternation, the change also caused me to start seeking another blogging platform just in case — still no word on the new a la carte options said to be coming. I’ve been sampling other services and will share where I’m at thus far. But first, a general word on paying for services.


There’s a notion that paying for an app or service is better than using it for free. One reason is that paying helps ensure the app or service won’t disappear — “free” is not a sustainable business model. For example, I donate money to Wikipedia because I value the free service and don’t want it to go away. Another example, I have long paid for WordPress because it is was a great CMS for blogging.

Somewhere along the way, I mistakenly thought paying for WordPress ensured it would never change, disappear, or regress. I was wrong. Though I’ve subscribed for years, it changed for the worse, not better. And while I can keep my current legacy plan as-is for the foreseeable future, I don’t know if that will eventually change. So despite paying money for WordPress, I have uncertainty about it.

The instability has me seeking solid ground in other blogging services. If I move somewhere else, I’ll take with me the lesson learned: just because you pay for a service doesn’t mean it will remain the same long-term. Paying may help ensure a service is more likely to remain viable, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything. I’m not saying a service should never change, but when it does, it should be better for both the customer and the provider. The new plans are not better for the legion hobby bloggers.

Bloggers deserve a better blogging platform.

Wix

I signed up to try a free Wix account but didn’t like the interface or dashboard. The whole service didn’t feel right, but that’s probably just because I’m so used to WordPress. The thing is, I want a simple blogging platform, not a website builder. And the costly plans aren’t better than what WordPress now offers.

No thanks. Moving on.

Ghost

For publishing text — not building a website — Ghost looks excellent. You can literally play with Ghost just to try it out. I was very impressed with its dashboard and user interface. It’s simple and elegant yet provides the core functionality a blogger needs. Most impressive is how seamless and easy it is to use Ghost to give your readers newsletters and tailor your blog to gaining new members or subscribers. If you want to offer “Premium” content on your blog, Ghost looks best. The pricing structure isn’t great — there’s no free tier — but it seems reasonable for a hobby blogger with hopes to gain some income. The company appears solid with sound values and principles, and the site has lots of info about content publishing in general. Their Twitter account is worth a follow.

There’s a lot to like about Ghost; it’s one of the top contenders for a WordPress replacement.

Write.as

This blogging platform is intriguing with its super minimal appearance. Like WordPress, there’s an open-source, self-hosted version — write freely — and there’s a hosted version — write.as. The hosted version has a Pro plan that’s the most affordable of the WordPress alternatives so far. Unfortunately, the Free plan is now closed. The Pro plan has a 14 day free trial but I’ve not tried it yet. I appreciate its “less is more” feeling, but I think write.as doesn’t offer enough blogging goodness at its Pro plan cost — though it does have a newsletter for email subscribers. After watching a few basic YouTube videos for how the service works, I think it’s too simplified. Also, I’d rather not use markdown to format posts. On top of that, it favors Chrome or Firefox through an extension for easy photo uploading, but I use Safari.

I don’t think this one is for me.

Blogger

I love Blogger and am now using it privately for cross-posting. To this day, it remains super simple yet has all the basic blogging features I love. It’s easier to use than WordPress and its widgets are better. I even prefer its classic themes with custom HTML and CSS for free! These traits combined with nostalgia tempt me to return, but my rational brain might get the better of me. You see, Blogger is free — nice, but I’d pay for it — and owned by Google, which means Google could kill it at any moment. In fact, some of its most basic blogging features have been deprecated in recent years. While I might be willing to live without them, it makes Blogger’s future more uncertain.

Blogger is best for simply blogging. But it may not be around for long. I’m torn.

WordPress

This brings me back to WordPress. I’m already here and paying for a good plan I can keep…but for how long? I decided it’s time to try the new Full Site Editing with blocks, so I’m testing it out. I have some hope that I’ll be able to customize my test site to my liking, but so far I dislike the interface and nomenclature. It’s not very intuitive, though you’d think it should be since it’s based on blocks.

This brings me to the fact that, while powerful and sometimes easy, I dislike the overall block interface paradigm. Everything feels janky. Instead of writing a blog post, I must cobble together a bunch of spare parts. There are settings everywhere, with buttons, drop-downs, sidebars, options… there’s a lot going on just to write a blog post or tweak a theme. Widgets customization is jankier than ever. I’m one who likes to customize and tweak a blog theme, but I don’t like the new way of doing it on WordPress.com. I prefer a traditional WYSIWYG text editor. And I miss many of the classic, now obsolete, WordPress themes and “legacy” widgets.

With WordPress.org and WordPress.com, there should be WordPress.blog, a new hosted service dedicated to classic and simple blogging rather than website building. And yes, I’ve considered self-hosting but dislike the overhead.

WordPress went from publishing platform to website builder.

Others

Maybe I should try Tumblr? I don’t think so.

I might try Medium as a way to syndicate my posts, gain exposure, and gain readers or subscribers to my blog. I doubt it, though, since it would mean paying more.

Conclusion

I don’t think WordPress.com is the best place for a hobby blogger anymore. That said, there are things I like about WP: the Reader, Like buttons, a robust ecosystem, room for growth, long-term viability overall, strength in numbers of users, a support system, and a good blogging community. These all create much value. I still have plenty of time to shop around and do my research, and I’m eager to check out the pending WordPress a la carte add-ons that are said to be coming. Time will tell what I end up doing.

Are you looking for a WordPress alternative?

Jason Journals Launches On Twitter

Earlier this week, I took a new step forward with my blog, creating its very own Twitter profile. I had considered this before but never thought it was necessary or worth the extra management. Now, though, it seems fitting.

New blog posts can publish to a dedicated Twitter timeline, letting the blog have its own identity there. This means when my blog posts get tweeted, they won’t show up in my personal timeline widget on my blog…except if I retweet them I think. (I’m not sure what the proper Twitter etiquette is there.) Anyways, it’s nice to see my blog get a bit more promotion with its own Twitter profile. I hope it will lead to more followers and readers.

Speaking of, the Jason Journals Twitter account will also help my blog get exposure if I decide to leave WordPress (due to its recent plan/price changes). If I move to Blogger, for example, I’ve already got a nice Twitter “Follow” button there for Jason Journals (in lieu of a Blogger Follow button, which no longer exists except as a legacy widget if it was applied before being deprecated). 

There’s one other part about my blog posts having a dedicated Twitter profile: more interaction potential. I’m eager to see if some followers would rather comment on my posts there instead of on WordPress (or wherever I host my blog in the future).

Follow @Jason_Journals

New WordPress Plans Do Not Impress

WordPress has made its new plan changes official. The announcement covers the radical reduction to only two plans and includes somewhat clarifying information about related options. It’s nice to see this news properly addressed outside WordPress forums. And it really looks like WP is listening to its customers and adjusting some of its new plan offerings. But…

Not all of the changes have been settled upon yet. So while one of my initial concerns was somewhat relieved, I’m still not content with the new plan direction and continue to consider alternatives, namely one at this point.

It seems official: current paying users — like myself on the now “legacy” Personal plan — can keep things going just how they are; no changes necessary. That’s…kind of fine, though it feels a bit tenuous. And any future change will mean accepting either the free or pro plan of WordPress.com. So far, there are no other options; it’s “all or nothing.”

But in the announcement, WP stated that some “a la carte” options are being worked on and should be offered at some point. I understand that to mean maybe someone on the free plan could pay a small sum — say $2 per month — to get one extra feature like a custom domain or the removal of ads. Such an offering could be good, or maybe not. The sweeping changes are still unsettled and are kind of sweeping me and some other personal/hobby bloggers away.

A few days ago, the plan updates shook many bloggers, myself included. The unexpected and unwelcome change moved me to search for fallback options on other blogging platforms. From that initial impetus up to today’s announcement, I think enough inertia was gained to keep me moving away from WordPress. 

This is disruption. Yet I’m kind of glad it happened because the platform I’ve set my sights on looks surprisingly good so far. I’ve liked it in the past, and it feels like I’m just now realizing how much I still like it.

I think I’m moving…back to Blogger!

Yes, Blogger — blogspot.com — is still around.
Yes, I wonder if Google will kill it like it has so many other services (cough, Google+, cough).

Then again, I’ve started to think that maybe the fact Blogger is still alive means it’s…immortal? Nah. But maybe it’s worth letting things be, so Google stays its plug-pulling hand. In any case, I’m of the mind to use and enjoy Blogger for as long as I can while it remains. Who knows, maybe my and others’ use of it will keep it going longer.

I haven’t made any final decisions and am waiting on WordPress to finalize its new plan and pricing structure. That said, I’ve been busy testing my old Blogger account and preparing a migration. I already transferred my domain from WordPress to Hover (mapping it to my current WP blog). And I added a different custom domain I own to my Blogger blog.

Much of my time lately has also been spent customizing my Blogger theme down to the HTML - for free! I’ve missed Blogger and feel happy at potentially relying on it once more. I love its classic — now nostalgic — blogging feel; I’ve missed it.

By the way, if I leave WordPress, I will not miss the block editor (I’m kind of turned off from everything turning into blocks…they’re effective but not elegant; learning how to work them is clunky).

My blogging will continue on WordPress at Jason Journals for now. Meanwhile, I’m cross-publishing all future posts to Blogger too, starting with this one (though it is a private blog for now).

Anyways, that’s where I stand. I’m willing to risk Google killing Blogger (fingers crossed) in order to potentially use it, with its simplicity and flexibility, for free. That’s a tough deal to beat for a simple hobby blogger. If I switch, I’ll likely keep my WP account and blog as an archive on a free plan. It’s possible I’d return to WP if Google does eventually delete the fine indie web relic that is Blogger.

What are your blogging plans?

WordPress Plan Changes Concerning

Surprise! In a non-telegraphed move, WordPress launched a new plan pricing paradigm recently. Brought to my attention by fellow blogger Aywren Sojourner, I looked at the plan tier updates to see what’s up. As things now stand, I don’t like what I see. In fact, this sudden and unwelcome plan pivot moved me to begin checking out other options in the greater blogging space.

I don’t wish to leave long-term investment in WordPress behind and start over elsewhere, but deciding such a move will come down to features and costs. Blogging is a hobby of mine that I’ve enjoyed for years; I pay money to do it and don’t make a penny back. I’ve subscribed (been a paying customer) to different WordPress tiers for the past five years. There has been a wide range of plans and price points to choose from. As of last count, there were five, from “Free” all the way up to “eCommerce.”

Now there’s just two. Free or Pro.

Surely there will also be at least one nice middle tier, right? Don’t get me wrong, I like simplicity and minimalism (I could always use more of less, heh), but offering only two plans is a bit, uh, sparse. Imagine going to your favorite retailer to buy a pair of jeans and all they have is small and large; neither fit. What happens? You go shopping at another store.

More news will likely come. There has been additional info on the updated plans…in the forums. And while that’s definitely helpful and somewhat relieving, I don’t understand why the plan changes were not officially announced in a blog post or similar. By the way, one of the plan changes — a substantial storage reduction — inadvertently caused upset with several bloggers as a code bug misled them to believe their media stores were suddenly removed or in jeopardy. That’s unfortunate, and though mistakes happen, it’s like adding insult to injury amidst the surprise price changes.

I trust WordPress will be more forthcoming in the near future. Meanwhile, I’ve made one move already; I transferred my jasonjournals.com domain from WordPress to my preferred independent registrar at Hover.com (they’ve been great for many years). And let me say, the transfer process was very easy and fast! I started and completed in less than an hour.

Domain connected/pointed to WordPress moments after transferring it to Hover. It was almost entirely automatic.

I’ve also started looking at other publishing platforms like Wix, Squarespace, Blogger, Weebly, Medium, and others. So far, I must admit, the competition isn’t much better in terms of pricing. I suspect that general economic inflation is one factor causing higher than expected prices. Many WordPress alternatives do not offer any low-cost plans. Like past days of Netflix only asking for $7 or $8 per month, gone are the days of sub-$10 tier options in the content management space. This seems to match another price hike recently announced when Amazon increased the annual cost of Prime membership quite a bit.

Once the dust settles on WordPress plan changes, I’ll finish reevaluating my blogging life and decide how to move forward. Change, especially when unexpected or unwelcome, is hard. But change is often for the best, so call me cautiously optimistic.

What do you think of the new plans?

Summer Blog Theme Revamp

Guess what? My blog theme is changing – again – like the seasons. If I found the perfect theme, I’d likely switch it later out of boredom. What do you do when fresh turns stale? Refresh! Besides, blog themes make an important statement on the web.

(Originally published at WordPress.)

Tinker Under The Theme Hood


So why am I changing my blog theme again? One reason is that my previous theme switch-up in early April was an experiment with new post-formats and the block editor. And as it turns out, the tumble-like blog page isn’t as functional as I like.

So I tried several select themes, but nothing really clicked. Then I started to systematically “Try & Customize” every free theme down the line. In a short time, I discovered Canard and was thunderstruck! It was almost exactly what I was looking for – plus a bonus feature!

Let the theme tweaking begin.

Rather than bore you with the particulars of the changes, suffice to say I’m stoked to spelunk the depths of the design.

Personalized


The best thing about blog themes is their uniqueness. As a Personal Blogger, YOU are distinct with particular traits. And blogs vary in style just like people do.

The blogosphere is a collective place where individual writers express themselves through self-publishing. That special “self” is like no one else. So a personally designed blog theme extends that distinctive expression; it reflects your tastes.

So I like to find just the right colors, fonts, and layout that display my own vogue. For example, fonts come in many styles: modern, elegant, quirky, artsy…almost anything! Colors also convey a lot. Orange: enthusiasm… Green: harmony… You get the idea.

I often wonder though, how much does it really matter anymore? With that, I have a question straight to you, dear reader.

How often do you visit blogs?

Do you mostly read blogs in the WordPress (or other RSS aggregator) Reader?

I admit, I often read blogs in my Reader feed – it’s convenient. And only sometimes do I click out to actual blogs on the web. I’ve often considered making a point to abandon the Reader in favor of visiting actual blogs like we’re in the 90’s!

If you specialize your blog theme, but no one ever sees it, why bother with themes at all? If you master Google SEO, then search results will lead visitors to your blog itself. In that case, your theme should make a good first impression in the hope of gaining a bigger audience.

Regardless, I think your blog theme is significant even if nobody sees it because tweaking it is still a creative act and an expression of yourself.

Theme It Up


On the spectrum of blog personalization, are you closer to the “set-it-and-forget-it” default end? Or do you gravitate toward the “tweak-it-to-death” custom end?

Which is more important to you: form or function? Both of these factors come into play for blog design. Both how your blog looks and works make a difference in how your blog feels overall.

If you don’t express yourself in your blog’s thematic structure, give it a try!

One last thing: however much you customize your theme, don’t neglect the overall blog priority: writing posts! Some of the best blogs on the web are bare-bones black text on white screen – just words. But the writing is excellent.

Blogger Did A Thing


It’s hard to believe Blogger has been around since the last millennium! 21 years is a long time for any tech thing. And despite Google’s record for killing off services, somehow Blogger endures. In fact, it was updated last month, a rare thing.

Easy Does It


I wouldn’t blame you for thinking Blogger is no longer relevant, but Google must think otherwise. And I’m glad they do. They think enough of it to keep it up to date. A new post on the official Blogger blog details the changes.

If you head over to Blogger via your Google account, you’ll see that it’s now totally refreshed with Material Design painted all over. And it’s as simple as ever, with an aesthetic that’s more crisp and clean than iceberg lettuce.

There’s not much to it, but all the basics are clear and present. Gray icons, white space, and orange accents make the site inviting. The simplicity is attractive.

One aspect I find delightful is the Label feature. Like labels in Gmail and in Keep, they appear and act the same in Blogger; they’re easy to manage. The best thing about them is the simplicity: there are only labels. That’s it. Contrast that to WordPress that has Categories and Tags; it’s more complex.

Blogger does have its own complex area: customizing your theme and layout. It still has the classic look to it. I can only guess that will be updated at some point in the future. Of course, that assumes Blogger will have a future.

The revitalized Blogger, still a free service by the way, also looks and works well on mobile. When I checked out the web app on my Android phone’s Chrome browser, the interface was a match!

Keep On Blogger


I guess I will always be fond of Blogger. The attention Google’s given it recently makes me smile. The overall simplicity makes the platform attractive, almost tempting me away from WordPress.

But Blogger’s basic nature sacrifices features I’ve come to rely on at WordPress.

However, if you dislike the Block Editor on WordPress, you will love the straightforward Editor on Blogger!

Blogs are dead? Don’t tell that to Blogger.

Hit The Blog Refresh Button


If you visit my blog regularly, then you likely noticed some big changes around early April. I had started rethinking how I blog and what I could do to make it better…which led to a new theme. Plus it wasn’t just any theme.

Rethinking Is A Theme

(Note: this post originally published to WordPress)

So how was I thinking of blogging better? I wanted to post more often. In fact, the holy grail of blogging to me is posting every single day! Why is this so hard to do? I would like to achieve that, but awesome I am not. I guess I’m not very disciplined either.

Instead of blogging daily, I would settle for just more frequently. But long-form posts of 500 words or more are hard to come by for a dad with 5 kids and a full-time job.

So I thought about doing post series. I would maybe break up one long post into three short posts. The idea of doing short posts more frequently (hey look there, it’s the quantity versus quality issue again) stuck with me.

I pondered different variations of short posts. What if I challenged myself to write posts with a 100 word limit? Then it occured to me that WordPress has short post types built into the platform: Asides!

To me, asides are like tweets on Twitter. Why not put my tweet-like short posts on WordPress instead of Twitter? This would potentially give me more frequent posts. Then I could still cross-post to Twitter when I hit the publish button. Two birds; one stone.

Thinking about the Asides on WordPress set me off to searching for a new theme that supports the aside post-type. After much sifting, I found Baskerville 2 was the best fit. What is most noteworthy to me is the fact that this theme happens to be designed by none other than my favorite, Anders Norén! I’ve written about him before because, like now, I somehow always gravitate towards his blog themes before realizing they’re his.

While still aboard the change train, I also decided to add more photos to my blog as Image-type posts. I like photography, and this would again increase how often I publish to WordPress. It would be kinda like replacing Instagram as my go-to fancy photo share spot.

Along with adding images and asides to my articles and changing the entire theme, I also added a new homepage and rearranged widgets. And in the process, all this helped me refocus on what I want to write: articles and notes on consumer tech, entertainment, and photography. It’s a lot of change!

So How’s That Refresh?


Almost two months later, I noticed that despite the big blog refresh in April, for some odd reason my posting frequency in May has slumped. And on top of that, I’m starting to wonder now if I should have narrowed my writing focus to three broad areas specifically as mentioned above or if I should have left it more open ended.

I’ll give things more time before I make any other changes or decisions. I still enjoy blogging and will keep striving to improve it when and where I can.

Sometimes blogging slumps happen; I’ve noticed sporadic cycles in my own writing too. Even when I seem to get into a groove, seasons change, life happens, and it throws off my blog vibe. But I always end up coming back to it one way or another.

Maybe I need more coffee.