Don't Make Blog posts, Make Articles

This site used to be a website of “blogging” and it was frankly terrible. Any time I look back on those old blog posts I made, I cringe horribly because I knew I could do better. However, with this cringe comes vital knowledge: If you’re going to host a website online, make it a website with articles rather than blog posts.

Blogging gives you a “Tweet mindset”

Blogging as a format is focused more on short, easy to digest, quantity-based postings rather than proper, longer-form developed posts. Anyone who has read my old blog would know that what I wrote was usually never more than 300 words and consisted of under-developed topics and baseless assertions. These were not high quality posts by any merit, however, like most blogs, this is what I thought was the “correct” way to do blogs.

This “correct” way of doing blogs is the “Tweet mindset”. Instead of focusing on churning out quality content when the time comes, it’s focused on making shorter content that’s less in-depth. While this format is fine for non-serious entertainment or day-to-day notes, it is not good for explaining how to use a program, how to do something, or enumerating an opinion I had.

Anyone who is remotely aware of this site’s posting schedule as of now is aware that the articles I produce are sporadic. This is for good reason. Unlike blogs, I do not have a “Tweet mindset”. I have a focus on content quality and density now, so much so that I review what I make multiple times over before posting it (often over the span of weeks).

Blogging is mental sewage

Speaking of the “Tweet mindset”, blogging usually produces garbage. Sorry to any bloggers out there, but there’s a good reason no one is reading what you’re writing. I believe this is due to blogging having a lower standard than proper articles. It’s assumed that a blog is going to be in some way “raw and personal” (if it’s not attached to a process, we’ll get to that), and thus, people feel it’s fine to just spew out the thoughts they’re thinking at the moment. Now, you can do that, but that doesn’t mean what you’re going to make is good.

The garbage directly coming from your mind is usually just your guttural opinions or feelings on a subject rather than anything properly reasoned or explained. Opinions expressed in these types of blog posts are usually an expression of loyalty to a specific idea rather than the reasoning behind it.

If the blog post happens to not be an opinion piece, and also not attached to a process, it’s just boring stuff you personally think is interesting. Now that’s fine to post that sort of stuff online, however, unless you convince me to care (and that’s usually something that requires an article), I won’t care and wont read your blog post.

There is a massive caveat with all this. If your blog posts are detailed expressions of your opinion, akin to how my articles are, you are in the clear. However, I’d call those articles rather than blog posts at that point. Blogs are, “web logs”. Logs are “a record of performance, events, or activities”. Unless you are recording events, activities, or performances, rather in day-to-day life or on a particular subject, you are not blogging, you’re writing articles.

Blogging without a process is pointless

Using the definition of “Log” from before, we should denote an exception to the “blogs are trashy” rule: If you are logging or commenting on a processes or event, your blog is likely of merit and interesting. Proper, interesting blogs like these are rare, so incredibly rare that the only thing I can drum up would be Drew Devault’s status updates and “Kernel hacking in Hare” updates.

Most blogs are not this, if they are blogs at all. Of the blogs that are actually blogs, the ones I have had the displeasure of interacting with are simply boring, day-to-day activities that I can witness and comment on by just living my life. This includes my own, archived blog. The little of it that wasn’t poorly wrote software suggestions and political commentary was, effectively, personal observations. One series I had going was “Attempting Highschool With Only Libre Software”. It had a strong start, a good goal, but completely collapsed in on itself when it devolved into pure complaining about online school. Afterward, it simply fizzled out and died.

Only when a blog is logging some type of event and process with the author’s point of view interjected is it interesting. Blogs have to be detailed and particular. They only succeed when they’re novel and weird. Rather the weirdness comes from the topic or the author, it’s necessary. Blogs cannot be about the mundane, and if they are about the mundane, they better have an over-arching theme that an audience finds interesting.

Most blogs are not interesting in that sort of way. They are documentation of the mundane in a mundane way. This is not something anyone wants to read.

You wouldn’t read your blog, and you’d probably hate it if you did

This brings me to my final point: you probably wouldn’t read your own blog if you randomly found it. This is because, when most people make a blog, they make it for themselves. They have their little area to complain in. It’s not for other people and, because of that, little effort goes into making it high quality content.

This lack of standards leads to both a stagnation of writing prowess along with a lack of pride in the work. These make the blogs unsatisfactory to an author, and they may just give up because of it. If your blog is not something you would read, it’s likely also not something you’re proud of.

The sad thing is that, if bloggers just wrote honed articles on topics they care about instead of vapid blog posts, they’d be much more satisfied. It’s nice to share your opinions, hobbies, and knowledge when you put it all in a package you care about for an audience who will appreciate the detailed article.

That is the point of publishing something: to share it for others. When you put something on the internet, you are showing it off. I believe you should only really show what you’re proud of when publishing. Many articles I have on my computer are half-baked, stuck in draft hell, or simply are scrapped due to not being up to my standards. I do not publish these. Because of this high standard, I am mostly happy with the state of my website as of writing.

To summarize that last point: if you aren’t happy with your work, and do read it over and over to see if you are, you shouldn’t publish it. That way, when you do publish something, you will be proud of it, and you’ll want to continue making your blog. If you don’t, you’ll just fizzle out and leave behind a mediocre footprint that’ll make you cringe when you rediscover it.

Don’t let this dissuade you

Blogging can teach you a bit about running a website, writing, and may be a good way to assess your own life. Don’t let my critique of blogs dissuade you from participating at all. Let them be a guide on what to do and what not to do when publishing a blog.

There is a key word in the last sentence: publishing. These critiques only apply if you’re publishing a blog on the internet for others to see. If you want to make an HTML-based log for your eyes only, then go right ahead. It’s for you and only you, no one has to see it, feel free to do it and pack it full of whatever you want.

In fact, I encourage people to make offline blogs as a testing ground for what they’ll publish, if they publish anything at all. If you write something, you read it over again, and you find that you’re proud of it, maybe it’s time to launch a website and share it with others. That way when you come into the blogosphere, you come in kicking with some high quality content.

If you never make anything you wish others to see, that’s fine too. You can still use HTML-based logs for both personal reasons and as a method of learning.