Sat 22 Apr
The estimable John Gruber has taken the plunge into full-time, self-employed blogging, and I envy him. As I wrote in the link I posted to the Elsewhere section of Subtraction.com, this is a win all around: readers will get more of Gruber’s uniquely detailed and exquisitely reasoned Macintosh punditry, and Gruber will get to focus on Daring Fireball, the central passion of his professional talents.
He writes, “There’s nothing I want to do more than this.” I can empathize, because while I’m genuinely engaged by many things in life — including the daily and deeply satisfying challenges at my job — there are few things I enjoy more than working on this weblog. As a designer, authoring a weblog is more or less like landing a dream project with a client who’s always in agreement with your own creative judgment. It’s no accident that the design profession and the blog phenomenon have been intimately entwined since this whole thing started. It’s the first medium that has allowed unfettered access to publishing for a population of craftspeople who have almost always had publishing just beyond our reach.
That said, I’m finding it harder and harder to post as often as I’d like to this blog. My days are simply too busy for me to take out the hour or so that I need (at a minimum) to draft and post a new article to Subtraction.com. With the best of intentions, I usually try and prepare a slate of stories during the weekend for the coming week, thinking that I’ll get them out over the course of the following days. Somehow that never happens, though, either out of laziness or a vague belief that such an editorial schedule takes a bit of the spontaneity out of the act.
Don’t worry. I’m not copping out and shuttering Subtraction.com. I enjoy it too much to do so. This is more of a ‘state of the blog’ post, an update on where my head is with this whole enterprise. In fact, I plan on making a few additions to the site soon, maybe as soon as early next month, that will hopefully inject a little excitement into things around here even if I can’t post as often as I like.
I also have no plans to discontinue my efforts to post as often as I can. One way to do that going forward is to write shorter posts and to do so more than once a day — I’ve always been proud of the way this site visually structures the presentation of multiple posts on a single day, and I’d like to see that happen more often. I’ll be honest though: brevity is not my strong suit. I often set out to write what I hope will be very short posts, like “Music for Blogging,” that quickly evolve from three sentences to three full paragraphs.
Anyway, in my ongoing efforts to incrementally improve the site as a whole, I spent a little bit of time today doing some housekeeping. First, I’ve decided to make a policy change on the remarks that readers leave on each post: rather than leaving each post open to remarks indefinitely, they’ll now be closed as soon as the post has been moved off the home page.
As you can guess, this is a result of the relentless and imbecilic onslaught of comment spam that continually plagues blogs everywhere. I’m a longtime user of MT Blacklist, a plug-in for Movable Type which allows me to automatically capture potential comment spam in a kind of quarantine until I can verify its authenticity, but even that process has become too much of a pain. So I’ve turned to MT-Close2, another plug-in that automatically closes comments for older posts entirely. (I know, I should upgrade to Movable Type 3.2, but I just haven’t got the brainpower to think about it.)
This is a great way to combat comment spam because the vast majority of such traffic occurs on older posts. Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow readers who happen across interesting posts in the archive to add their two cents. That’s the theory, anyway. I found that, in practice, the vast majority of remarks added long after a post has been moved off the home page haven’t been particularly valuable contributions to the conversation. For a post like “Desktop Clutter,” for instance, which is a brief commentary on the generally unattractive aesthetics of a brand new Windows computer that makes no pretense at providing support or help of any kind, the remarks that users tend to submit these days run along the lines of, “I LOST MY HP ORGANIZE HOW TO GET IT BACK??!??” All caps and everything, I kid you not. So I’m not going to miss those late-in-the-game additions, believe me.
Another change I’ve made to the remarks: Notice on that same post that there’s now a dash of orange to call out the remarks added by yours truly. I’ve always found that the comments that are the most interesting on any blog post are the ones added by the author himself, so, modesty aside, I came to the conclusion that others would find the same thing about the remarks that I write. It was a hard decision to use the orange, because it effectively breaks the black-only color scheme of the whole site, but I think it᾿s worth the exception to create a moderately more interesting user experience. Hopefully you’ll agree.