The state of blogs today

I spent considerable time this week mulling over what this blog means and what blogging means in general. Specifically, I refer to the increasingly valid concern about the state of blogs today. They are so vastly different from what they were a few years ago, and almost nothing like they were back when weblogging started, that I ended up with two conclusions: one, blogging in the form that it started is either evolving or dying, depending on how you look at it; two, the spirit behind blogs, the core interests they brought to the table are being resurrected, albeit painfully slowly.

These two statements may at first seem counterintuitive, but they are not. In any case they demand further explanation. Luckily enough, over the course of this week I came across two interesting writings on this issue. One is a short post published on Seth Godin’s blog, and the other is an article by Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic, published earlier this year, titled What blogging has become. (On a side note, I have found articles in The Atlantic to be increasingly more interesting than The New Yorker of late.)

Mr Meyer writes about blogging as a victim to corporate consolidation:

Open up an old blog and it was a list of posts in “reverse-chronological order”… Meanwhile, in the right rail, there was a list of other blogs read by this one. Things were generally chummy… Very, very few people do that anymore… For a couple years now, it was clear we were going to lose the reverse-chron, single-URL game… in return, we got Twitter and Facebook… They adopted the chatty tone of blogs, and they unified the hundreds of streams of content in reverse-chronological order into just one big one… a writer didn’t have to attract and maintain a consistent audience in the same way anymore.

His argument leads up to how Medium, the blogging network, is taking on the role from (or alike?) Facebook and other social networks in an unexpected turn that is slowly reviving the blog format. Following recent updates, he points out, things on the platform “just look bloggier (sic) now”. This is in stark contrast to how it used to be built around “collections” of themed articles rather than collections of articles by one writer. This is what differentiated Medium from a regular blog, but with the death of collections, this is now no longer true. And all this, in my opinion, leads us right back to blogging. It remains a fundamental method of sharing information: you have a platform, you write, you send out links and draw interesting people to read it. Everything else, in my opinion, is a twist on the same.

Medium is now a platform and no longer the network it intended to be. Whether this is a good thing or not is a debate best kept for another day. But are they not all blogging platforms? Facebook and Twitter too have reverse-chronological updates written by people in various lengths, from one character to a thousand. And, like Medium, they too have “streams” of content waiting to be devoured; the only difference is in how they began — Facebook started as a place for writing something personal, Twitter for sharing interestingness quickly, and now Medium is like a platform for people to look trendy. But today, are all three are little more than burdensome social marketing tools where everyone has vested interests and over half of all spoken words are either influenced by corporations or ooze dishonesty to portray life like people want it to be rather than like it is.

It was in this context that Seth Godin wrote his recent blog entry on why blogs matter, perhaps more now than ever before. “Good blogs”, he rightly says, “aren’t focused on the vapid race for clicks that other forms of social media encourage. Instead, they patiently inform and challenge, using your time with respect.” This about sums up blogging for me. The reason why blogs have lasted until the present time is quality — and I say this because, while a couple of decades might not be long by most measures, it is a few lifetimes on the internet, and that, I think, is something we should pause and absorb when we see how long blogs have lasted: nearly the entire lifetime of the modern internet. The fact that a blog belongs to a person quite naturally makes it a responsibility, unlike social media; and the fact that a blog belongs to a person also makes it a representation of that person, unlike social media (how many people visit the profiles of everyone they follow everyday?) and this quickly makes blogging something that, to the blogger, has immense value. And it is precisely this value that a reader of said blog will reap.

That is not to say all blogs provide value or are worthwhile. On the one hand this is a subjective issue, and on the other the internet has an unintentionally inbuilt system that weeds out low-quality blogs (low traffic due to bad content leads to lower traffic much like high traffic due to good content will lead to even higher traffic). This ensures that only good blogs survive or, at least, that only good blogs reap the benefits that make them worth updating regularly. Such a habit of offering quality content without seeking anything (read, personal tastes and product usage patterns) in return has made blogs the enemy of social networks in some manner. “Google doesn’t want you to read blogs”, points out Mr Godin, citing how the company shut down its feed reader service, “And Facebook doesn’t want you to read blogs either… but RSS still works. It’s still free. It’s still unfiltered, uncensored and spam-free.”

Indeed it is no surprise that RSS has long been my sole means of following my favourite blogs on the web. And what I find most interesting is that the “right rail” that Mr Meyer talks about (or a sidebar as it is better known) still exists almost religiously on all physics-based blogs that I follow. Understandably a majority of the blogs I follow are written by fellow physicists, and nearly every single one of them has a dedicated blogroll — not necessarily maintained, but not taken down either, despite the fact that WordPress (the largest software powering weblogs today) pulled the plug on blogrolls a long time ago. I used to have a blogroll too, but decided to keep it private. The link sharing and follow through to other blogs, which was the role once played by such lists, is now accomplished by a liberal use of links and citations — at least on my blog and on several of those I have seen.

To believe that blogs matter to the average reader, however, would be pompous. The collective community of well-written and fully functioning blogs — the blogosphere — most certainly matters, but individual blogs rarely do (unless you know the blogger otherwise, often personally). However, to look at this as the insignificance of a blog would be just as wrong. Blogs still carry a raw, personal feeling, a brutal honesty in words of the sort one only ever utters in the private walls of a home. This is a benefit few magazines can offer. By restricting oneself to a magazine restricts one’s perspective, causing it to lean towards that of the magazine; to subscribe to several magazines will soon become too expensive to justify. Blogs, therefore, are the answer. The only complaint — the quality of content — becomes moot because if one searches enough, they will almost certainly find bloggers whose quality is on par with any magazine. The discussed, thought-out, and merged perspectives of a board of editors can be afforded by following several blogs and, in the end, using them to think for oneself.

I have often said this and will say it again: blogs have a unique place on the Web, and they will continue to. Until a radically new form of expression comes up — one that can trump writing, which is no small challenge — blogs and magazines will co-exist, the latter offering investigation and coverage only their large funds can help realise, and the former offering perspectives and opinions only possible by someone not influenced by corporations and establishments. So read blogs; good blogs can be incredibly rewarding.

A simpler way to blog

In my last seven years working on WordPress, my workflow has remained unchanged. As I had once detailed on the colophon (now updated) I used to write either on the WordPress dashboard for convenience, or on Ommwriter when I was offline (or intended to reduce distractions so I could write the article quickly), but this too would ultimately get moved to my WordPress dashboard for publishing. It was a process that worked, but I was never happy with it. It was inconvenient, the WordPress dashboard is functional but ugly, and I have lost an article or two on spotty connections despite offline saving and revision archival. And on the material side of things, the writing environment was pitiable.

In these seven years I have also come across countless programmes being suggested to writing for a website. Back when I was on Windows, LiveWriter was a rare gem from Microsoft that got everything about offline blog management right. Sadly, and surprisingly, there is no Mac equivalent. The closest would be MarsEdit, but it still is just as ugly as the WordPress dashboard. That said, if I wanted an offline blog management tool on my Mac right now, I would pick MarsEdit with my eyes closed: it is the best programme of its kind, hands down. Anther option I used for a year or two was Blogo, which was sometimes a hit or miss — but it was remarkably helpful when it was a hit. Following the launch of their iOS companion app, Blogo switched to a continuous subscription-based model that I was not a fan of and hence I gave up on the software. Like MarsEdit, Blogo is a good product in active development. Another alternative many have talked about is Desk, which I have not tried and cannot speak about.

However, with time I came to realise that what I wanted was not an offline blogging tool at all. To run and maintain a WordPress website I know of no means to keep the site updated and secure without visiting the dashboard itself. The aim then was to have a workflow involving the entire publishing process in as quick and efficient a manner as possible while I visited the dashboard no more than once or twice a month to maintain the backend of the website and work on some code. That is to say, I was really looking for a publishing solution, and I had my answer in the excellent Mac and iOS application, Byword. (I have since briefly talked about Byword on my asides site, Marginalia.)

Byword now has a place on my MacBook Air, Pro, iPhone and iPad, although I use it most on my MacBook Air to write articles — including this one right now:

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The way in which I use it is straightforward as well: I start an article anywhere an idea strikes, but the manner in which I take it down varies. Specifically, while on my notebooks I write the actual article, whereas on my mobile devices, I take down points. I do this all on the same .txt file — “Tee-ex-tee for posterity”, as I like to say — making sure the points are noted down below the body of the article and get added to the body as I go and get deleted from the points list. This is simple and it works. Links are shared this way too, and since everything is written in Markdown, the text looks neat and readable and the links are full URLs and not mysterious clickable text, which is always a plus because, firstly, it makes things easy if I want to use the link elsewhere (in my opinion and for the way I work anyway), and secondly, it is always helpful to have the full link visible should any wrong or incomplete links creep in.

In short, Byword keeps things simple but not dumb. With referenced image upload support and support for WordPress, Medium, Tumblr, Blogger, and Evernote, the programme is not just a text editor anymore. It is a full-fledged publishing tool (with support for custom fields, which I happen to use a lot on WordPress) and lets me cross-publish my article to both my website and Medium, after adding a small note to it along with a link back to my website. My rather limited workflow on iPad must not be taken as inability on the part of the device. For articles like the 600 words long aside I wrote on Marginalia (linked to above) I used my iPad. And the iPad is a device that can do “serious” work just fine, contrary to popular belief: Federico Viticci, Myke Hurley and others have been vocal about their move to iPad for a majority of their everyday work. But I do not do the kind of work they do, and quite a lot of people likely do not — we do not earn a living from our websites or run several podcasts, for example — so the extent to which various devices play a role in our work and personal lives varies. However, I can definitely see where iPad can be a mainstream device, even replacing a MacBook. Perhaps I am old fashioned, but this is not for me yet, which is why I use it to note down points or restrict it for writing asides rather than lengthier articles.

Cutting past whatever takes time without providing value in your blogging workflow is one key aspect where I spent time mulling over specifics. Byword offers no way to upload an image to my media library and then let me access it. This is not the most helpful of things, but the rest of the app was so good and did so much for my writing workflow that I was willing to work around it rather than complain. Now the reason featured images are good, besides beauty, is that when people share your article, most websites end up putting whatever image is on the article (often in the order that they appear) as the thumbnail. Specifying a “featured image” tells other websites what you want the thumbnail to be. I was not particular about this, and beauty comes second to substance on this website, so I decided to let go of featured images altogether and put in an image in the article. This works and I certainly like it so far.

With speed and convenience comes sacrifice: besides featured cover images I also let go of rigorous SEO practices of keywords, checking for keywords in h1 tags, repetitiveness, the Flesch reading test and so on. Instead of moulding my writing for Google, I decided to wait for Google to mould itself to truly recognise good writing. Consider this simple example: in Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, the most commonly occurring word which is not a conjunction, preposition, or article, is the word prince, which repeats 1,885 times. The word war itself only occurs 298 times, and peace still less often at 114, in a novel of 3,110,642 words. What Google would consider as keywords then have a “keyword density” of a meagre 0.01% of the text, which is terrible SEO (Google and SEO gurus once said keep it at 1 – 10%) but we all know Tolstoy’s is excellent writing. In 2016, Google is getting smarter, but is not quite there yet.

Once you let go of stringent SEO and flashy images, you are left with a block of text and that is precisely what I built my entire writing workflow around for my website. Substance and perspective are what define blogging in my opinion, and for that, the old adage still holds: simple is effective.

A glimpse of the infinite — an interview with Martins Kai

Martins Kai will begin writing a column here on VHBelvadi.com starting this month. Called “Glimpse of the infinite”, this will be a monthly — or occasionally a fortnightly — column. In this tête-à-tête with Mr Kai we talk about writing, his interests and passions, about himself, and then take a look at what his new column will be all about, as well as what plans he has for it down the road. “This”, he says, pointing to stretches of green lawn around us, “is a luxury in my country.” Dressed in a simple red T-shirt and black trousers, his eyes scanning the landscape around, he talks to me enthusiastically about his upcoming article. He is working on a piece about Foreign Direct Investment in Kenya and how development has been slow there and corruption blatantly on the rise. “We’re one of the largest economies in East Africa”, he says, and believes that Kenya needs to steal the development model of countries like India which are developing faster than most African countries. He promises to address this and more in his next article, which will also be one of the first write-ups in his upcoming column on this website.

About himself —

I’m Martin, I studied computer science and I love art. Oh, I love art. Like drawing… the whole of art, I love art so much. And sometimes reading novels, and also (television) series. I’m a fanatic for series. Crime, suspense, and sci-fi.

On his interests in writing —

The sort of things I like to write are things that people ignore, like the truth about something. Like foreigners, when they come to India for three, five or even seven years to study, they spend their time during the holidays at home, sitting, partying, instead of using that time to do something constructive about themselves. Say, like, they don’t take the initiative to involve themselves in something constructive. A passion. Maybe you have a passion, writing, running, drawing, you see they don’t use that time for their own benefits. They just use it for drugs, you know, and alcohol. The thing that I love about writing, let’s see, I love being alone most of the time. I think a lot and if you’re alone you can think about so many things. The things that, for me, have involved me in writing are like the third eye, or the bird’s eye view. To see what’s happening around me, to pose a challenge to myself and the people around me, and to take some positive action about it.

Martins Kai

”If you’re alone you can think about so many things.“

At first, like the previous article I wrote with Andrew, that’s about facts, about different cultures, different religions. For us Africans, the way we are is different from the way Indians are in (terms of) culture. Women wear miniskirts and for the men it’s different haircuts. Like mine of course (laughs). And now we try to relate how Indians live and how Africans live. How we are brought up and how Indians are brought up. For us Africans it’s two different types. You can question your parents, or it’s just, ‘OK, let me do it because I want to please my parents’. There are things we’re too blind to see. There is, for Indians, arranged marriages. For an African, you can’t tell (them), ‘Hey, there’s a beautiful girl there and I want you to marry her’. Another thing is my own personal opinions. I love writing about my own opinions. The article I’m writing now is facts and personal opinions. (It’s about) how we should steal, or copy, the Indian system. Like, my country has the largest growth in east Africa. They should copy from another country that’s developing fast, like India. India is developing much faster compared to my country. So they should copy the same system.

On his other passions and what he hopes to achieve —

I wrote a couple (of songs), but you know, you write something and you see, ‘Ah, this is not perfect as you see your idol or a celebrity singing, and this is not the best’ and I tend to, let me say, something that triggers a moment. People write from experience, what they see around them, what they go through. So, for me, I’m trying to find a connection between the life that I’ve lived before and this life that I’m living now. I’m a Christian, of course. I believe in God. So I’m trying to write a song in the next two weeks or so about how God has been with me through my life and all. I’ve passed so many dramas and downfalls in life. I remember when I was in primary school, seventh standard, I fell sick, I almost went blind, so in that moment, that you’re not going to see again and all that, so I thank God for that, you know.

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Flimmaking makes my head go, like, a person who feels high. I have a passion for it. Especially from you, of course. I’ve come to know, like, Albert someone said, if it can be thought, it can be filmed[1 The closest I recall is Stanley Kubrick, who said, “If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed”.]. About filming, I’m still new in this, but I have a great passion for it.

What I want to achieve… I won’t lie about it, first of all, I want to be rich. And the thing that, with today’s world, the thing that makes people famous, rich and respectable in society, you know, (is) if you create something and people follow that thing, positive things, you get a lot of appreciation and the film industry is the fastest growing industry in the world at the moment and people get rich because of it. And for me, I involve myself not for being rich, but definitely that’s where we’re headed, right? So, like, something that will bring the best out of you. So, what I intend to achieve from filmmaking and writing is to leave a mark. After I’m gone, I need to leave a mark behind. People say, ‘You remember this guy, he did this and this? We respect him for that.’ So, the foundation of all this is because if I’m gone, tomorrow if I’m not here, like people should remember or they should tell their children, ‘You should have patience in life. You’ll be like him one day.’ So, be a model to others.

On his new column, “Glimpse of the infinite” —

Infinity is endless. And you’re trying to see from one corner and you need to see the whole room, and you have, like, this small hole, and you’re trying to peep towards the future, you know, you’re trying to have a piece of the cake from the big cake, like the tip of the iceberg from the whole thing, so you’re trying to see the entire picture. It’s something that, I was watching a serial the other day and there was this guy, he was looking up at the stars, and then he was smoking, and imagine, like it was written there, so I’m trying to see if you stand at a place and look at everything that’s happening at that moment, everyone, every single person and what they’re trying to do at that moment, so you’re trying to see the whole thing from one point of view.

At the moment we’ll see how the column goes. I’m trying to take it, for this month and next month, to be monthly. And then June, July, August I’ll try to make it weekly and I’ll be able to work on it all the time. I’m trying to make it all-round. You wake up everyday, it’s a new day, a different day, so I’ll be writing something about different things. And if something good comes to my mind, ‘Let me see, I’ll write about this today, let’s see how it goes’. So I’m trying to write different things, and it’s a glimpse of the infinite, right? So I’m trying to talk about everything at the moment. If the topic I’m going to write about is more interesting (to me), then definitely the words are going to be more. Or it’s going to be a shout out. It’s going to be varied. For the column, for the moment, I’ll try to put my life out of it. I’m going to write about everything else around me. Not from my experience alone. As for the readers, what should they expect? Something interesting.

Glimpse of the infinite will begin on Thursday, 21st April 2016.

A new blogging manifesto

About three years ago, shortly after I joined the slow blogging movement for the first time, I wrote down a massive list of fifty points to which this website would conform. It was a blogging manifesto and at that time everyone needed one because blogging spiked in popularity and most of us were looking at why we blog, what it means for us, and how best we could define our style. It was not so much about carving out a niche as it was about setting a standard for ourselves.

Three years later I find the time has come to renew the manifesto, to amend and improve it. And, above all, shorten it and make it more practical so that understanding and following it would be easier. The original still exists and I will leave it untouched if only as a witness to the brief history of this website.

1. Be mindful of the audience

In an excellent article on the OUP blog, Kansas University’s David Perlmutter makes several thoughtful points about content in the 21st century. There used to be a time when limited access to a public audience meant few people could afford to be heard and almost all content was, in some form, curated, being rich in information and carrying little noise. “The voices are many, loud, and raucous”, says Prof Perlmutter, “what many people are asking is, ‘how do I get good information?… Where can I discover people who are coherent and responsible, intelligent and precise?’ We don’t have the time to sift through all the voices in the crowd.” This is truer today than ever, when the race is on to write many articles, often on the most trivial and unnecessary issues, in a bid for popularity and advertising revenue.

He goes on to talk about “slow blogging” as sticking to a theme, which is not something I agree with, but the core ideas remain the same: you have an audience who are giving you their precious time when they reach your website and surf and pause to read or save something, so you ought to make it worth their while. This is, as you may soon grasp, a more general basis for the other points in this manifesto. In this context, I would also urge you to read Petar Maymounkov’s article on how recommendations have meaninglessly fallen to these days. And to sum it all up succinctly — ensure nobody regrets visiting your blog or website.

2. Value thoughts and informed opinion

Content becomes noise for two reasons: one, because it informs nothing new factually, and two, because it does not bring a new or stronger perspective to the table. That is not to say opinion must be tossed around callously — hence the word “informed”. Think before writing, pause, ponder, formulate, structure, strengthen and then put pen to paper. Re-read drafts, make final copies. Publishing one article a month is just fine so long as that article is your best.

The 21st century has a new crisis… We don’t have the time to sift through all the voices in the crowd.

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As much as I hate to admit it, I have hurriedly published a few articles in the past and they — among other things — prompted this manifesto. It is easy to be drawn into the ranks of mindless publishing, with a team of monkeys tasked with spewing one paragraph after another not to enrich your ideas or your worldview or your opinions or knowledge, but rather to make you visit a page, render advertisements, and make money. This is why you do not see advertisements on this website, never have, and never will. What matters is not clickthrough in this day and age, but the same old thoughts, opinions, and beliefs that have upheld the art of writing for the last several centuries. Weigh your thoughts, pause to consider and write like a truly educated person.

3. Critique humbly, encourage debate, and stimulate intelligence

One of the primary purposes of this weblog shall be to stimulate thinking. Added to that will be critiquing (of some form and degree) that is sometimes a necessary part of voicing opinion. But these critiques shall be respectful, tasteful and have a proper ground. Their purpose will certainly not be to bring down another point of view, but rather to encourage debate or open up new avenues of thought or varied approaches to an issue. The takeaway in all cases remains that the reader must feel they have gained something intellectually — and indeed they should have — and they will (hopefully) be in a position to raise discussions on the same issue elsewhere.

The dying need to create a community has often seemed counterintuitive to me: it is futile, not to mention foolish, for a blog to compete with the likes of Facebook or Twitter, where a larger, better-knit community already exists. It is, by extension then, just as meaningless to hold discussions in a community around this blog. Since debates are of concern, it is certainly better to write great content and encourage its discussion on previously existing, substantial, and thriving platforms. The intention is not to selfishly build a platform or community, but instead to foster discussions in existing communities.

4. Try to bring in an academic bend

This is akin to playing your strengths. As an academic — or at least as someone who has spent all his life in academia — I see that a lot of the social web is not populated by scientists (or physicists anyway). This is ironic considering that the circumstances and purposes for which the internet was created had a lot to do with promoting academic exchange. Below is an interesting extract from “A manifesto for blogging professors” (i.e. for professors who blog) published years ago on Sea Monster, that is still, unfortunately, valid today:

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How about 90% of scientists who also don’t (still use social media)? … And that WAG includes Facebook.  Even fewer blog or read blogs and almost nobody in academia older than 30 uses Twitter.  Therein lies the problem — academia doesn’t value online outreach in large part because so few academics do it.

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This weblog, therefore, will try to bring in an academic, meaningful bend to as many things as possible. Articles backed by citations (not formatted, rather as backlinks) and a straight, structured argument as opposed to throwaway rants. Even opinion pieces — the good ones worth reading — have to carry this structure, and, while it might cause Flesch reading scores to pique, I doubt there is harm in that given the number of blogs happily at the other end of the spectrum. In other words, be academic, mature, thought-provoking, ordered, readable, and interesting.

5. Slow blog, or, help combat information overload

Seth Godin pointed out a decade ago that information overload is becoming somewhat like the tragedy of the commons. That is an economic theory that describes a system of individuals living in an environment involving the sharing of resources but where the individuals themselves act independently for their own good while going against the common good and thereby depleting resources. Producing content, however meaningless, has its perks these days — a main chunk of which is advertising revenue. So, despite knowing that there is too much noise out there and that the overload is decreasing our attention span as a species, individuals continue to write in excess — with utter disregard to the value of their writing — and benefit individually while they collapse society as a whole.

Slow blogging is part of the solution. When you write only when you have something to share, when you share only when you have something new to bring to the table, you reduce the amount of noise floating all around us and make the world a better place. As Prof Perlmutter puts it, “Reduce the number of messages in any form, from IM to email to Twitter tweets you send. Think: do I need to send this? Does anybody need to know it?” This extends to blogging as well. Whenever an article appears on this weblog, it will have been motivated by one of two reasons — either the idea has not been addressed enough (or ever), or a new perspective is being brought to the table for discussion.

6. Honour aesthetics

I have addressed content a lot, but I have not forgotten that the carriage is important too. I am already extremely particular about web design, look, feel and functionality, so design will not take a backseat here. This weblog will, at all times, be designed to the best of my abilities. It will be designed to make reading easy (and targeted towards ensuring you never have to turn on any “reading view” on your browser). James G. Stewart, associate professor at Allard School of Law, says on his blog, “Elegance is a fundamental tenet of convincing argument, a key part of what makes scholarly life pleasurable and something of an antidote to the heavy quality of the issues this blog addresses.” Of course the elegance we speak of may be on different terms, but, once again, the core ideas remain the same. Elegance and aesthetics are good things and worth spending time over. In any case, design, function, form, aesthetics — and elegance — shall not be overlooked.

7. Niches obstruct growth, or the aim is not to be read widely

A lot of blogs use the practice of defining a niche — often in the URI itself — as a means to draw traffic. Whether this works or not is not the topic of debate here, instead the point is that a niche can sometimes obstruct growth of a personal blog such as this; and not defining a niche is not indicative of aimlessness. What matters is good writing and topics on which good writing can be published are of a wide range, which is what this blog will embrace. Does this mean it does not serve the interests of people? Not necessarily. Good writing on any issue is usually worth reading, and if a particular issue addressed is not of concern to a reader, it should not be hard to skip that and read the next article.

Fencing oneself within a niche should not be necessary unless a blog is set up commercially. But the idea here is larger (and I mentioned niches separately because they are the only valid and not gimmicky approach to driving traffic). What this weblog will further abhor is absolutely any trick or cheat directed towards gaining views — clickthroughs, advertisements, redirects, slideshows that require full page reloads etc. Good writing should be the greatest selling point of this weblog, even if it ultimately means fewer readers. Idealistic? Arguably. But principles are worth standing up for. To sum it up, its is not what you write about or market but how well you write about something that imparts it a greater value.

These are the general ideas driving this website. There are more, mostly smaller ones, some that have changed since the original (and unusually long) manifesto was published, most that have not. One of the things I like about the old manifesto are it’s initial lines, which I will recount here simply because they apply to this new manifesto as well — “There comes a time when you have done something for so long that your outlook suddenly takes a dramatic turn for the wiser. This is one of those instances, and it is in this state of pseudo-wisdom that, after blogging for seven (now ten) long years, I have come to create (this manifesto)”. So these are the beliefs of this weblog. And it should give any reader a clearer picture of what every published article hopes to achieve.

Slow blogging reinitiated

Three years ago I wrote about joining the slow blogging movement. Slow blogging is a practise that aims to take blogs back to yesteryears, where a group of people wrote thoughtful articles and the web, by and large, read them. These people were not journalists, but regular folk who had worthwhile comments to make and their blog was their platform. And there was no competition.

Like everything else this soon turned into a business: someone thought of ways to make money, someone else thought of ways to appease Google, still others thought of banding and writing hordes of articles with a frequency individual writers could never dream of matching and we got to a point where people started comparing blogging to journalism. And there came with it unhealthy competition.

In three–years’ time I have most certainly deviated from my original intentions of “slow blogging”. But I think the fact that I took three years is appreciable; I for one expected to deviate within three weeks. But it is important not to take the term “slow blogging” too literally. In fact, it means blogging intentionally or purposefully rather than slowly, and pace itself comes merely as a footnote. The idea is that we bloggers will do well to leave marketing and strenuous schedules of writing to magazines and journalists and embrace something media houses cannot offer — individuality. And that when you blog only when you have something worthwhile to say, your frequency of writing tends to drop.

“You don’t work for your blog — your blog works for you and your goals, and the most important thing we can do is let it,” says Jen Carrington.

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Last month I wrote continuously keeping a good schedule of publishing on alternate days. I loved it, but I think I would like it better if I were allowed to take things slow. Surprisingly enough, it is not because I had to work hard to say something — indeed that is easily done — but because, over the years, I have come to value the creativity afforded by flexible deadlines. Not a complete lack of deadlines, mind you, because deadlines do quite a lot to help you get things done, but having a crude deadline (this week, by this month etc.) means you can be sure not to abandon your blog. This is important for those afraid of abandoning their blogs.

However what we do gain by adopting a slow blogging mindset is a mental calm, weightier thoughts, and a better body of articles. I have often found myself cringing at my earliest work — perhaps everyone has experienced this — and a surefire way to ensure every piece you write is your best is to ensure you give each one all the time it deserves, and this is near-impossible with a cut and dried schedule. I may be returning to the movement (if you can call it that) after deviating from it for a while, but I have maintained it for the better part of three years and found it to be enjoyable. It really does have practical reasons too: most of us do not earn by blogging, and it makes no sense to justify spending more time on it than you would on any hobby. Sixty minutes were all I gave myself, and if that time was up, I returned to the article another day, once again for no more than an hour. This does wonders to your thought process, leaving ideas lingering in your mind, giving them ample time to germinate.

“Slow Blogging is a rejection of immediacy,” says Todd Sieling. “It is an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly.”

Jen Carrington wrote an excellent piece on slow blogging for creatives last year; I think everyone should read it. The only other article on slow blogging I would recommend you read is The New York Times’ coverage from way back in 2008 — five whole years before I joined the movement. I would also suggest reading the original “Slow blogging manifesto” from Todd Sieling, who kickstarted the movement, except it seems to have been taken offline now, which is a pity. In any case, a quick search for slow blogging will place before you more manifestos than you would care to read.

The point remains the same, be it 2008 or 2016. Blogging, for a majority of us, is a hobby, a leisure activity (possibly academic to a certain extent), and an enriching part of our lives, but a part of our lives nonetheless, not our entire life. But for the meaning it adds to us and our work and thoughts, we all want our blogs to be meaningful too, to be worthwhile for our readers and, at the end of the day, justifiable for our efforts. When you look at it that way, “slow blogging” just makes sense. Perhaps it is the natural way to blog and still the best. I love to write a lot, write often, but I have many things to do apart from this — research and academics for instance — but blogging is worth it and I appreciate those who put in a lot of effort and keep a stern schedule, but to each his own. I have come to embrace slow blogging for a reason, because it makes more sense to me, my lifestyle and my approach to things, but to you as my reader, it should make hardly any difference because absolutely nothing changes with regard to interesting articles getting published on this website. In fact, my instincts tell me that “slow blogging” just may make my articles even better.