This month I’m talking with Manu Moreale
As is often the case, life takes over my plans and things get delayed. It’s something I just learned to accept because fighting against it is a lost cause.
I must confess that writing a public email feels kinda odd. Like you, I have a blog where I publish content that is meant to be public but I also write a lot of emails that are meant to be private.
Writing an email to someone knowing it’s going to be public feels strange as if something is not how it’s supposed to be.
Anyway, I’m curious about this experiment you’re running. I remember stumbling on your initial post talking about it months ago and thinking “That’s a neat idea, I should participate”.
I got in touch and my month was so far into the future that I completely forgot about it in the meantime. So when your email landed in my inbox it was a nice surprise.
I was poking around your site and noticed that your blog—like many others—has an interesting history. You went through phases only to finally settle to a good publishing cadence. Do you think that journey is inevitable for all the people with blogs? Do you think we all have to go through the various stages before we find our preferred rhythm?
And speaking of rhythm, are you going to keep this letter project going for another year?
I hope you had a lovely end of the year and I also hope you can have an even better 2024.
Look forward to hearing from you.
2023 ended with a lot of drama– a major house leak that has taken the better part of a month to plug up. The house is still in disarray, but there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. There’s also been some personal turmoil that I think mostly “will pass”, but still kind of in the thick of it. But that’s life– every year we think we get to reset the decks and wipe the slate clean, but there’s always new stuff to handle and plenty of unexpected challenges to disrupt our best plans.
This experiment is interesting. I have had some solid conversations with strangers and friends alike. No one I’ve done Letters with has been someone I regularly spend time with. I enjoy that I can wait until I feel like I have a clear head to read and write back. There’s something nice about the slowness and having a reason to write something a bit longer. The schedule and scheduling, however, has been kind of a pain. I double booked some months by mistake, and I wasn’t always on top of reaching out to folks well ahead of time. My life is a little chaotic– or at least has very little routine compared to the past. In that sense, the project has been hard.
It’s related to the life my blog has lived. The earliest posts on this blog came from a Pelican-based blog I started toward the start of my working career. I had previously written extensively on LiveJournal, Blogspot, and tried Wordpress at least a few times. Most of writing was on old topic-based forums, however. I never really got into a rhythm of blogging regularly. I wanted to write about my interests, but I put too high a standard on posts and never really met them. My blog mostly became a place to play with code on the side. By 2011 I was well into my Twitter phase. I probably had collectively around 100,000 tweets that I wrote from 2010 until 2023. So when something was much too long for Twitter, I’d occasionally blog instead of write long threads. At some point, I grew frustrated with Pelican and switched over to Hugo. It was a way to play with things like nginx settings and keeping a server running on Digital Ocean. It was fine, but I wasn’t inspired to write that much. The work flow of Markdown file, running Hugo, checking things, making a commit, pushing, SSHing into a server, pulling, and building was a lot. Then I had to link it places because otherwise no one would read it.
When micro.blog, my current host, cropped up, I was quite attracted to a couple of things. First, I was already uncomfortable with putting everything into Twitter. I had played with POSSE-like systems elsewhere, using things like tags on Pinboard to post links to Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook via IFTTT. I liked the idea of writing once and letting that go out to all the social networks. But I viewed Micro.blog as a stalwart against a Twitter I increasingly didn’t want to be on and a way to get posts into Facebook (which I briefly had an account on) and other places easily. A couple of years into using Micro.blog, it switched from being Jekyll-based to Hugo-based and opened up custom templates. Suddenly, I could take the blog I already have and host on Micro.blog.
So the real way I found my cadence here (on this blog) was a combination of disillusionment with Twitter and finding the right tool in Micro.blog. The key was that I could have almost all the same control I had with Hugo (at least enough control) and I could post from my phone easily. It’s not just that I can write micro-posts– it’s that I can use MarsEdit and the Micro.blog app and iAWriter to publish to my blog without the whole build step. It’s so much easier to share a photo or two or write a quick paragraph than it used to be. But I still understand how the whole system works and I can make things look how I want, mostly. That was key to building a blogging habit.
I think another key was nabbing this domain on day one of the
.blog TLD being available. Naming this blog based on my own name took away the idea that this was meant to be anything other than a personal website.
Letters has been a great way to keep a consistent writing schedule, but I think this will actually be its last scheduled installment. Doing these weekly and having to keep track of folks ahead of time is too much work. I haven’t said this publicly so… this is the announcement of that.
However, I really like having long form correspondence on the web. Not enough blogs are blogging about other blogs. I think that’s really important to having discovery again on the web.
I haven’t come up with the exact idea for where Letters is going, but I think it’ll be something more like Tumblr’s “Ask me a question” feature. I’m going to try and encourage ways for folks to write me, a long letter or even a simple question, and I will do my best to respond to what comes in. At least that’s the current working theory. I’d love some feedback on this idea– how do I keep getting the chance to write a bit with strangers and parasocial relationships on the web? And how do I keep writing blog posts that are, in essence, responses to other people’s posts in a way that encourage conversations between the two?
I think our technology outside of the Wordpress pingback is pretty crumby here. I know that when I post links, I am not using Indie Web standards with
u-in-reply-to classes. I’m sure very few people do. I don’t know when someone writes about a blog post I wrote! Unless they @ mention me on some form of social media, it’s just happenstance if I see that stuff. I think that kind of stinks, and I think the tech to fix that also kind of stinks right now. It’s too complicated.
Tell me a bit about your blog and what you write about and why. How are you hoping to keep being a person on the internet?