Making Things Simpler

It was finally time to show the blog some love again.  After neglecting this space for months (the last serious bit of writing I posted was about the transition away from Flickr — which had its own fits and starts — I thought it was worth revisiting the idea of what this space is supposed to do.

Well, that’s not entirely true: I had set up a theme called Agregado earlier this year because it was built on the premise of an inescapable fact:

Our personal sites, once our primary points of online presence, are becoming sock drawers for displaced first-person content. We are witnessing the disappearance of the all-in-one, carefully designed personal site containing professional information, links, and brief bursts of frequently updated content to which others respond via comments. Did I say we are witnessing the traditional personal site’s disappearance? That is inaccurate. We are the ones making our own sites disappear.

Jeffrey Zeldman, The vanishing personal site

Agregado did something really compelling: tie in the disparate online identities we’ve created for ourselves and present them in one place that our friends could check. Unfortunately, that feature came with a cost: the design still assumed that I would be posting something up here on a fairly frequent basis.

If the Daily Newarker has taught me anything, it’s that blogging can be a thankless task.  Five years ago, having a blog seemed so much simpler: monetization was more wish fulfillment than concrete requirement.  Of course, five years ago, I was in my twenties with no kids and too much time on my hands.  Now, blogging has to have some sort of return for it to be worth something, or it feels like yelling into a (well indexed, searchable) well.

Social web services add a dimension of immediate feedback which, while notwithstanding their own pitfalls, introduce incentives other than getting paid to creating content for the web (just keep clicking on those ads).  And in their own zeal to get paid, they niche you into thirty different directions all while fracturing your digital identity.  Yes, it still is the Wild West out there.

While thinking about these things, I stumbled across Lifestream, which is the centerpiece of this new design.  With very little effort, this WordPress plugin provides a full menu of services from which you can import your content and activities and post them to the blog.  This is especially helpful for my wife and I, who both co-author the blog and have at least two Twitter accounts each — Lifestream feeds them all into the blog, and provides a daily digest of the result in a clean, readable format (a side benefit, by the way, to mitigate against proprietary lock-in for a particular service).

After peppering the blog with some Google ads, search, and analytics, I’m ready to do what I should have been doing: leverage a platform I created years ago as an underutilized asset.

Of course, our charming and lovely readers get to continue reading about our triumphs and failures…and maybe get a glimpse of our favorite Hulu programs in the process. 😉

The vanishing personal site

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