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meta

On internet obscurity: analytics be damned

At least five times in the past decade, I’ve started online projects, only to see them wither away from lack of attention.

Past abandoned blogs

Oh, I invest long hours at first: writing a mission statement, shopping for a WordPress theme, and hand-hacking the CSS. But once the actual content creation begins, I quickly lose interest. I may post sporadically for a month or two. But soon enough, I give up. Eventually, I surrender the domain name, and my “brilliant” concept vanishes from the internet.

Occasionally, these projects failed because I lacked passion for the niche. For example, I once founded a project called “The Outage”, which was dedicated to suburbanites who put down new roots in the mountains. It wasn’t a terrible website idea, but I soon realized that I was more interested in my own urban escape than in telling other people’s escape stories. The Outage died a slow death.

More frequently, I abandon my blogging efforts not because I’m disinterested but because no one else is paying attention. My posts generate nearly zero pageviews. My Twitter follower count barely budges. I put myself out there, and I’m met with dead silence in return: no engagement, no encouragement, no audience.

Obscurity kills creative drive, if you let it. Love me? That’s great! Hate me? Well, at least you’re following along. But ignore me? That’s the response that’s most difficult to accept.

Working in obscurity

Here’s what I’ve learned from these multiple abandoned efforts: when you’re starting from scratch—totally unknown—you need to find satisfaction in something other than audience engagement.

Imagine a wood worker, hand-crafting beautiful furniture on her homestead, high in the mountains. She’s miles from the nearest collector or customer, and there’s no chance of selling her handiwork—or even showing it off. No one will see the rear joint on that oaken cabinet. Nevertheless, the craftswoman spends hours sanding down its rough edges and carefully aligning the two joined pieces. She delights in the making, even when no one else will appreciate the end result.

I’m not kidding myself; this blog isn’t a work of art. But the metaphor works for me. If audience engagement were my only reward, it would be so easy to justify cutting corners. Half-ass the proofreading. Ignore that clunky paragraph. Skip posting for a day or two. Who cares, after all? No one’s paying attention.

From experience, that way lies surrender. When I stop delighting in the work for its own sake, I soon stop working altogether. When I let website analytics or podcast download stats serve as my primary motivation, discouragement festers, and I soon stop writing. It’s happened a half-dozen times before.

Analytics be damned

But it’s not going to happen this time. I’m determined to keep sanding down those joints, day after day after day. Despite feeling obscure and ignored, I’m going to keep making stuff. Rising before dawn. Posting every day.

That effort won’t be quickly rewarded with audience interest. In fact, I may never grow a sizeable following. My tiny reader and listener numbers may stay exactly where they are, and my creative efforts may never become anything more than a hobby. The analytics may never reflect my level of effort.

I’m okay with that. Screw the analytics. At least I will have made something. I will have tried. That’s pretty damned satisfying, in itself. ■

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meta

Jerry Seinfeld, the tech blogger’s spirit animal

Last night, the temperature here dipped below freezing for the first time since the spring. Our furnace fired up repeatedly throughout the night, helping us keep the autumn chill at bay. I know that because it’s easy to tell when the heat kicks on; the roar can be heard from every corner of our small cabin.

Apparently, our daughter had forgotten just how loud (and scary) that noise can be. When the heater first started, her frightened cries crackled through the baby monitor. We tried to settle her down, but eventually I set up camp in her bedroom and comforted her until she fell asleep.

Sleep graph
Sleep graph from last night. The purple stretches are sleep. The large gap around midnight was when the furnace scared my daughter.

All that to say, I didn’t get much rest, and (as I type this in the predawn darkness), my body is protesting. It would rather be asleep, recovering from late-night dada duty.

And if it weren’t for Jerry Seinfeld, that might have happened today. Fortunately, I’ve found inspiration in the comedian’s productivity mantra: “Don’t break the chain”.

The basic idea is that momentum becomes its own motivation. Daily habits, once established, are a sort of perpetual motion machine; you string together a “chain” of days, and you don’t want to stop. There’s magic in the streak.

What’s my good habit of choice? As of today, I’ve blogged and podcasted for eighteen straight weekdays. That chain is long and strong enough to drag me out of bed after a sleepless night. My head may be pulsing, my eyelids may be heavy, but I’m here. I’m typing. The streak summoned me to the keyboard.

And I’m scared to loosen the chain, let alone break it. One slip-up might derail me for good. “Just one day off” becomes “two days off.” Two days off becomes a week-long lull. Before I know it, my blog sits stagnant for months. That may seem overly dramatic, but it’s happened so many times before.

Happily, it didn’t happen today—thanks to the chain. I like to think that Jerry would be proud. ■


  1. Calendar artwork courtesy of Vecteezy.

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meta

Does Steve Jobs’ creative philosophy (“Make something wonderful”) apply to obscure bloggers?

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of Steve Jobs’ untimely death. Tim Cook, Apple’s current CEO, shared this reflection on Twitter:

Here’s a longer version of the same Jobs quotation, which Apple highlighted in the prelude to its September marketing event:

“One of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there…. Somehow, in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love, something is transmitted there.”


I don’t feel a strong sentimental connection to Apple’s co-founder, but I find him a fascinating figure: irascible and difficult, yet undeniably visionary, even prescient. At times, he was childishly petulant; at others, he demonstrated careful thinking. So it seemed worthwhile to reflect on how Jobs’ ideas might apply to my renewed blogging and podcasting efforts.

Now, “expressing my appreciation to the rest of humanity” isn’t the way I usually think about my daily writing and recording routines. But maybe it should be; too often, I get hung up on “appreciation” flowing the other way around: from readers and listeners to me. How many times did listeners download this episode? How many views did that post get? Could I ever earn enough followers to monetize this site? Is anyone out there even paying attention?

This sort of selfish obsession quickly leads to discouragement. I lose my motivation to write, and I’m tempted to quit, as I have so many times before. That’s why I haven’t enabled analytics on this site’s current incarnation; I’m terrified that knowing how few readers I have will derail my determination to rise early each morning and do the work.

The Jobs quotation above suggests a more productive approach: ignore my desperate desire for affirmation and appreciation. Instead, focus on the work itself: creating something good, genuine, and helpful. That mindset makes blogging more sustainable, more fun—almost automatic.

Now, the end result may not be “something wonderful”, in Jobs’ parlance, but if I’m investing “a great deal of care and love”, it will be rewarding—to myself, if not to anyone else. ■


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meta Uncategorized

New blog theme

I’ve switched up my WordPress theme, opting for a barely-customized version of the platform’s most recent default, Twenty Sixteen.

A few reasons for the change:

  1. I’d rather leave theme development to the experts. I don’t have the time or interest to maintain a custom theme or to leverage the latest WordPress features.
  2. I’ve been drawing more lately, and I wanted a theme that could showcase comics and illustrations. Twenty Sixteen’s robust post format support fits the bill.
  3. My previous theme (my own adaptation of Independent Publisher) lost its charm in recent months. My decision to limit the front page to post excerpts (rather than full posts) proved ill-advised.

I’ll continue tweaking my Twenty Sixteen child theme; better formatting for link posts and a snazzier main header are both on my to-do list. But I hope to avoid custom changes that would require ongoing maintenance.

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internet Uncategorized

How did a month of daily posts affect my blog traffic?

Just before Thanksgiving, I made several “creative resolutions”: I would blog every day, no matter what, and I would avoid checking my blog analytics until Christmas. I was determined just to write—without getting sidetracked by page views, followers, or blog traffic.

I’m happy to report that I accomplished the writing goal. I’ve posted something to this blog for 38 consecutive days—easily my longest streak ever. Every morning, I wake at 4:30, plop myself down on the couch, and hammer the keys until I finish a post (or until I run out of time and publish anyways). I’m more proud of some posts than others, but I’ve at least established some consistency.

I nearly kept my second resolution. I had originally planned to wait until Christmas Day to check my blog analytics. But some creative reflection yesterday made me curious enough to peek at the numbers. I expected a marked increase in readership, after a month’s worth of content. The reality wasn’t quite so rosy:

Pageviews
My blog’s pageviews since November 16.

This pageview data seems so inconsistent that I hesitate to draw any conclusions. (The session and user counts show similar contours.)

Looking at the acquisition numbers, most of my traffic comes from Facebook. Yet there’s little sign of progress on that front; I’ve earned just three Facebook page likes since my blogging stint started on November 16:

Page likes
My Facebook page likes since November 16.

There’s a clearer spike in my Twitter follower count:

Followers
My Twitter followers since November 16.

But twenty followers hardly constitutes a major shift. Plus, the uptick has stalled—my follower count has flatlined since the start of December.


I find these graphs discouraging. I didn’t expect a “hockey-stick” trend, but I hoped for modest, measurable progress. I wanted some reward for my diligence—some motivation to write in the upcoming year. Instead, these middling numbers tempt to me to abandon my blog (again). Confession: I nearly skipped writing this morning for the first time in a month.

Understand; I’m still determined to continue making something on the Internet. But between family commitments and my full-time job, I have very limited spare time. I’d rather not spend those precious hours writing posts that no one will read—especially since I’ve sacrificed other hobbies to maintain my writing momentum. For example, I’ve exercised far less often this past month than I’d like.

Maybe I need to make a course correction here. Should I narrow my blogging niche? Rededicate myself to self-promotion? Break out my blog into its own brand? Or should I stop blogging for a while and adopt a different medium? Is 2016 the year that I finally try my hand at podcasting?

One thing’s clear: my consecutive-day streak will likely fall victim to a TV-and-Christmas-cookie bender this week. And that’s okay; vacations should be spent relaxing and recharging. The holiday break provides a good opportunity to reflect and retool for the new year.

Besides, after a month of waking before 5 AM to write, I’m exhausted.

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Life Uncategorized

Checking up on my Advent creative goals

Just before Thanksgiving, I made several “creative resolutions”: new habits for the weeks remaining before Christmas.

As the holidays approach, here’s a status update on each of these goals:

  1. Post to the blog daily. I’m happy to report that I’ve published something on this site every day since November 21st. That’s easily my new record for consecutive-day blogging. That hasn’t always been easy. I’m writing this post from our car’s dark backseat, as we wind and lurch our way back home to West Virginia from a weekend visiting family. The van’s constant swaying is making me nauseous, and the baby’s overtired cries are making my temples throb. If I weren’t terrified of “breaking the chain”, today would’ve been the perfect day to skip blogging.

  2. Ignore analytics. Another success! I haven’t checked my blog stats since before Thanksgiving, either. I have no idea whether daily writing has swelled my readership. In some ways, it’s easier to not know. If the number disappointed, I’d be tempted to stop writing altogether. Let’s hope that on Christmas Day (when I will finally check the analytics), I don’t find a lump of coal in my stocking.

  3. Record a weekly podcast. Sadder news to report here. I still haven’t nailed down a concept that would hold my interest for the long haul. I’ve flirted with many ideas: a podcast dedicated to iPad productivity (I’ve been writing exclusively on my tablet); a podcast all about breakfast cereal; or the “Scripture in Culture” idea I mentioned in that original post. None of these have gotten beyond the brainstorming phase.

    At this point, It’s unrealistic to expect any recording before December ends. I’ll be satisfied if I can choose a niche and do some administrative legwork over the holidays.


So… I’m 2 for 3 on my year-end goals. Honestly, that feels like a win. Better to make steady progress in one arena than half-heartedly commit to multiple projects.

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technology Uncategorized

Review: the BrydgeAir iPad keyboard cover

My laptop is too big for blogging.

My work machine, a Dell Precision M4600, is a powerhouse desktop replacement. But it’s also a behemoth—far too chunky to use comfortably on the couch or to cart around when traveling.

I could get a lighter laptop—something like the Macbook Air. But I can’t justify buying a second laptop just for home use. Instead, I settled on the BrydgeAir, a premium keyboard dock designed to transform an iPad Air 2 into a tiny Macbook clone.

First thoughts

BrydgeAir
It’s a handsome devil.

The BrydgeAir is beautiful. It matches my iPad almost perfectly—down to the “space gray” aluminum finish. The keyboard’s brushed metal, black trim, and simple lines make it look like something Apple designed. In fact, I wish Apple did sell this product; it would prove their commitment to iPad productivity.

Brydge really sweated the details here—straight down to the unboxing experience. Magnets embedded in the lid produce a pleasing little thunk when it opens and shuts. That’s a fun touch, although I couldn’t help but think, “I’m paying for those magnets”—when some packing tape would have done the job.

Why the BrydgeAir?

Choosing the BrydgeAir took months—or years, if you count the time I spent nailing down my priorities. Below, I break down my wish list into sections; in each, I explain how the BrydgeAir met the need—or didn’t.

Self-supporting

Since I acquired my first iPad in 2013, I’ve relied on an inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard from Amazon. It works reliably, and the keys feel fine. Most impressively, it uses very little power; I’ve never replaced the AAA batteries that came with it. Since the iPad can’t stand upright on its own, I added a sturdy, foldable little stand—the fantastic Satechi R1.

This keyboard-plus-stand setup works great on a desk, but it’s maddening to use on your lap. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to blog from the couch, but that meant constantly juggling the keyboard, the stand, and the iPad. Shifting positions risked toppling the whole rig onto the floor, and standing up required two or three separate break-down steps. My frustration mounted, and I started hunting for an iPad keyboard solution that worked better on my lap—with no shuffling, minimal futzing, and the freedom to move around.

The BrydgeAir fits the bill. It’s a clever design; the iPad slides into two rubber-coated aluminum arms, which grip the landscape-oriented tablet securely. The iPad feels firmly anchored when “docked”; I can pick up the “faux-netbook” from either end, without worrying whether it will slide apart. The hinges pivot from closed to completely flat (0 to 180°) and hold their position once set. And because the BrydgeAir weighs about the same as the tablet itself, the iPad can’t tumble backwards, out of my lap.

One downside? When open, the hinges stick out, downward from the base. They thus serve as “legs,” akin to those found on many desktop keyboards. That’s inventive, but it’s not particularly ergonomic (experts recommend that you angle your keyboard the exact opposite direction). Fortunately, I’ve never suffered from RSI issues. Still, there’s another related annoyance: these little legs make the BrydgeAir less stable on my lap; it tips and bounces as I type. I eventually got used to the movement, but I wish the BrydgeAir lay flat instead.

Not a “case”

Other iPad keyboard solutions require that you clip the iPad into some sort of case—often one that can’t be detached from the keyboard. That was a non-starter for me; I prefer to use my iPad sans protection. Plus, I didn’t want to pry the tablet out of plastic armor every time I wanted to read.

The BrydgeAir handles detachment fairly well, although the same friction that secures the iPad while typing also makes the combo tougher to pull apart. I typically unfold the clamshell to 180°, grip each device with one hand, and pull in opposite directions.

There’s one disadvantage to the BrydgeAir’s detachability: what should I do with the keyboard when it’s not attached? Aluminum’s not the most durable material; it seems unwise to toss it into my bag with months-old bananas and car keys. Fortunately, because the BrydgeAir’s profile is nearly identical to the iPad itself, my WaterField sleeve holds it just fine. Then, when I’m ready to head out, I can dock the two devices and slip them both into the sleeve (the combo just fits). That’s more fiddly than I’d like, but it’s no worse than handling a standalone keyboard, the iPad, and a stand.

Great typing experience

My AmazonBasics keyboard works great, but it wouldn’t win any awards from the local chapter of the Typists Union. It’s got the mushy, plasticky feel I’d expect from a $25 keyboard.

As for the BrydgeAir… maybe my expectations for a chiclet-style keyboard are unrealistic. It doesn’t feel like a significant upgrade over the (far cheaper) Amazon alternative. The keys snap a bit more, but they’re noticably spongier than the full-size keycaps on my Dell workstation.

Another issue? The iPad occasionally registers two key presses for a single keystrike. This is endlessly irritating, but I don’t blame Brydge—that happened with other Bluetooth keyboards, too. Hopefully Apple can improve the reliability of its Bluetooth stack in upcoming releases. Or, better, perhaps we’ll see Brydge support the new “Smart Connector” when it migrates from the flagship iPad Pro to smaller devices. Hardware connections trump wireless every time—at least for reliability.

Because the BrydgeAir mirrors the iPad’s profile, the QWERTY keyboard gets compressed into a fairly small footprint. Those with big hands may find it cramped (though I haven’t had trouble adjusting). And shrinking the keyboard requires other, more irritating tradeoffs. A few useful keys—all included on my Amazon keyboard—are absent from the BrydgeAir. There’s no backspace, for example; I miss being able to delete both forwards and backwards. Function (Fn) is missing, which makes the Fn + Delete backspace shortcut impossible to perform. Finally, escape (Esc) is gone, too, which makes it tricky to dismiss dialog boxes and (especially) the over-helpful Siri.

Speaking of Apple’s “intelligent assistant”, the BrydgeAir boasts a dedicated Siri button at the bottom left corner. I use Siri too rarely to justify such prominent placement. Plus, it’s immediately adjacent to the Ctrl key; I frequently invoke Siri by accident, when I meant to cycle through Safari tabs. Siri would have been better relegated to the device’s function row, located above the numbers.

Useful function keys

The BrydgeAir’s top row of keys groups together convenient, iPad-specific functions. Here’s the run-down, in order:

  1. Home. Equivalent to hitting the Home button on the iPad itself. I understand why this is here, but you can’t really do anything from the Home screen without lifting your hands from the keyboard. Apple doesn’t support keyboard navigation outside of apps.
  2. Lock. This key puts the iPad to sleep–which proved surprisingly useful. Although some reviews claim that closing the BrydgeAir clamshell will automatically put the iPad to sleep, that never worked for me.[1] With the dedicated lock button, I can quickly lock the iPad, close the BrydgeAir combo, and go. And when the iPad is sleeping, hitting this lock button summons the PIN keypad (which can be filled out via the external keyboard).
  3. Backlight control. The BrydgeAir boasts built-in backlighting, which is handy for couch computing in a dim environment. I’m a touch typist and a battery life miser, so I don’t expect to use this feature very often. Also, for what it’s worth, I notice significant “light bleed” around the keys (rather than through them). That could be a common problem for backlit keyboards (I’ve never had one before).
  4. iPad brightness controls. My old Bluetooth keyboard didn’t have this feature, but it’s a must-have from here on out. These keys are especially critical with the BrydgeAir; tight clearance between the iPad’s screen and the keyboard base makes it difficult to perform the “swipe up” gesture that surfaces iOS’s native brightness controls.
  5. Software keyboard show-hide. Typically, I wouldn’t need the software keyboard when using the BrydgeAir. However, iOS 9 allows users to “two-finger touch” the onscreen keyboard to move the typing cursor. If I were determined, I could invoke the software keyboard via the BrydgeAir’s dedicated key, lift my hand to re-place the cursor, then hit the key again to hide the onscreen UI. That seems clunky, but it does work.
  6. Search and browser (?) keys. Weirdly, these two buttons do the exact same thing: switch to the Home screen and show the Spotlight search interface. I wonder if Apple changed something in recent versions of iOS that made the browser key (marked with a globe) stop working correctly? In any case, it’s now wasted space. That’s especially painful, given the other keys that are missing (see above).
  7. Media controls. I don’t often listen to music on my iPad, but these are fairly standard controls on external keyboards these days.
  8. Volume controls. Ditto.

Miscellanea

Here are a few quibbles and notes that didn’t fit above:

  • The BrydgeAir boasts a pair of built-in, Bluetooth stereo speakers. These are wasted on me, since I bought the device solely for its keyboard / stand functionality. In fact, I hadn’t even tried the speakers before writing this review. My take? You’re better off using the iPad’s onboard unit. The BrydgeAir’s speakers sound relatively tinny and clipped, although they’re loud and stereo (unlike the iPad’s single speaker). Honestly, I’m surprised this feature made the final product; Brydge would have better off dropping the speakers—and the price.
  • There’s a groove at the front of the BrydgeAir designed to make opening the clamshell easier. It’s a nice thought, but you’d need very long fingernails to use this indentation.
  • The iPad-BrydgeAir combo feels great when closed. It’s heavy—but substantial, solid and secure.
  • Brydge designed the BrydgeAir to match the original iPad Air—not the Air 2. On the first Air, the volume rocker and mute switch mirrored the BrydgeAir’s power switch and pairing buttons exactly. Apple dropped the mute switch with the iPad Air 2, but the BrydgeAir wasn’t updated, eliminating this little symmetric touch. The obsessive user might wrinkle his nose.
  • I wish Brydge sold through Amazon. Yes, I’m spoiled, but I’ve grown accustomed to Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping. I ordered my BrydgeAir on a Saturday, and it didn’t arrive till the following Friday.

Final thoughts

The BrydgeAir is a premium product in more ways than one. On the one hand, it’s pricier than the average iPad keyboard. The BrydgeAir typically retails for $149 through Brydge’s website. It’s on sale ($129) right now for Black Friday, and the right coupon code brings the total cost under $100.[2] Still, that’s quite the price tag for a tablet accessory.

But, setting aside minor complaints, the BrydgeAir is also “premium” in terms of build quality and functionality. The device trumps nearly everything else on the market.

I’ve found my dedicated blogging machine.


  1. I reached out to Brydge’s support team for this issue. They wrote that both devices have to be “perfectly aligned” for this function to work. Then, they added this: “Some batches of iPad’s [sic] did have the magnetic polarity altered which has caused many accessories that offer the auto off function to not work. This is why we do not advertise this function as a feature of the Brydge.” Welp. Even if the feature worked, I probably wouldn’t rely on it. I need to know that the iPad is turned off, since I set a long auto-sleep timeout in Settings. I’ll stick to powering down manually.  ↩
  2. The code I used, “GoDoMore”, offers a discount of $30 on the BrydgeAir. It appears to work with the Black Friday discount.  ↩
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internet Life Uncategorized

Early resolutions for Internet creatives

The end of the calendar year always feels bittersweet. On the one hand, the holidays are fun. I enjoy the chance to escape the daily grind, the time spent with extended family, and (let’s be honest) the unhealthy, delicious food.

On the other hand, as each year rolls past, I find myself reflecting on how little progress I’ve made towards my creative aspirations. Most years, I feel as if I didn’t make anything interesting—outside of work projects, which ultimately belong to my employer.

This year will be different; I’m aiming to get the jump on late-year regret by establishing some new habits. Whether you call it a “Creator’s Advent Calendar,” or an “Early New Year’s Resolution”, here’s what I’m hoping to do between now and Christmas:

  1. Post something on this blog every day. Finding time to write was never easy. But the arrival of our first child in March sent our schedules into overdrive. Our curious, energetic baby fills every day with exploration and wonder, from the predawn hours till well after sunset. Add in my 8–5 work day, and I’m left precious little time for hobbies.

    If I want to write, I’ll have to do it before the baby wakes. If I want a full hour to write, I need to roll out of bed no later than 4:30am.

    That’s only sustainable if I establish an early bedtime, too. Turning in at 8:30 does feel a bit silly. I also miss out on some choice prime-time TV: the presidential debates start too late; I can’t watch the end of my hockey games; and “must see” episodes “must wait” for Hulu. Those are sacrifices I’m willing to make, if it means I won’t feel like death the next day.

    What counts as “posting”? In short, anything counts. The daily post could be a full-length article like one, or a several-sentence commentary on a link to another site. The goal is regular momentum, not voluminous content. The habit is key; it makes writing an automatic part of your day. Conversely, if I skip a day, suddenly I’ve skipped three. Go a week without posting, and, before I know it, I haven’t written for months.

  2. Ignore analytics. Checking my blog’s readership too often sabotages my motivation to write. Building an audience is tough, and I get discouraged when few readers notice my work. So, for a few weeks, I’ll ignore the stats. I figure it’s better to neglect the numbers for a while than to get derailed by disappointment.

    My Google Analytics tracking script will continue to run when readers visit this site, but I won’t be checking the results until Christmas Day at the earliest. I’ve disabled the graph widget on my WordPress dashboard, and the Google Analytics site itself is strictly off-limits.

  3. Record a podcast every week. For years now, I’ve wanted to toss my hat into the podcast ring. My multiple missteps and false starts mostly result from a lack of clarity; what, exactly, do I want to talk about? What can I offer that no one else can? I like geeky movies and tech, but how many more thirtysomething white dudes do we need weighing in on those topics?

    One podcasting possibility? I could resurrect my long-dormant interest in the Bible. Although it feels like another life, I earned my Master in Divinity degree a few years back. Those school years—spent studying millennia-old languages; exegeting obscure texts; and learning about the ancient world—often seem like wasted time. Outside of the church, there just aren’t many outlets for those interests. My full-time job—spent working in SharePoint and Photoshop—doesn’t demand much Aramaic.

    But what if I could corral that passion into a podcast that interests a broader audience than Bible nerds and the devout? I’ve long contended that biblical allusions saturate “secular” American culture to the core. The entertainment industry loves to recycle narratives and themes from scripture. Politicians can’t resist the tempation to spout faux-religious platitudes. Who better to dissect these appeals to biblical authority than someone with a background in biblical interpretation? It seems like there’s room for an irreverent weekly summary of “Scripture in Culture.”

    We’ll see. Of my three goals, this feels the least defined–and therefore the least likely.


  4. It’s hard to build something great. It’s even harder when you’ve got a full-time job and a curious, nap-resistant baby on the loose. But if I can maintain these three habits between now and Christmas, I may finally beat the New Year’s blues that haunt me each December.

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internet Uncategorized

Guidelines for link bloggers

John Gruber’s Daring Fireball site helped establish the “link blog” medium: a running list of hyperlinks, punctuated by the author’s comments and the occasional full-length post. Over the course of a decade, he’s earned a large audience of geeky types. These readers eagerly await his take on every Apple-related story—even if it’s just a few words.

Gruber’s success inspired many other aspiring writers. In fact, my own site’s recent redesign takes its cue—philosophically, if not aesthetically—from Fireball.

Now, copying isn’t necessarily bad. But what works for one established writer might not work for everyone else. As Marcelo Somers observes,

The problem is, we can’t all be Daring Fireball — we can’t get away with posting a witty headline and a blockquote 5–10 times a day.


Below, I outline a few “guidelines for link bloggers” that I hope will constrain my own future posts.

  1. Offer substantial commentary. As Somers notes, a link and a quote don’t cut it. If I can’t contribute something unique and insightful, then I shouldn’t weigh in on the topic. As Marco Arment summarizes,

    “We don’t need more Daring Fireballs. We have Daring Fireball already. People who read it have little reason to read anyone else’s minimally differentiated clone.”

  2. Use the right medium. Link posts should require at least a short paragraph (i.e., more than 140 characters) to unpack. If a tweet (or a tweetshot) can sum up my thoughts, then those thoughts belong on Twitter.
  3. Avoid ubiquitous links. One thing I appreciate about the work of Jason Kottke (another long-time link blogger)? He somehow surfaces content I didn’t find anywhere else. Too many link blogs regurgitate the same links that every other writer already covered ad nauseum. Unless I can raise the level of discourse or contribute a truly unique take, I’m just rehashing—and doing my readers a disservice.

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