Blogs are dead, long live blogs
I don't remember when Google Reader was killed off. I vaguely remember the cries of the death of blogging and RSS, and the plethora of new services that launched to completely disprove those obituaries. Feedly. Feedbin. FeedWrangler. Etc etc. But by that point, a shift had happened for me which kind of justified Google's lack of interest in Reader.
I discovered Google Reader sometime around 2009, give or take a year or two. I was in uni, studying computer science, and I was just starting to really get into the tech news world. Engadget, TechCrunch, The Register, that sort of thing. I heard about Google Reader, and decided it sounded like a cool place to get my news from, rather than jumping between sites I had bookmarked.
I checked in on Reader multiple times a day. Whenever I was at a computer, really. Combined with the advent of the iPhone, my personal switch to using the Mac, and the related rise of tech podcasting (👋 TWiT and 5by5), it all shares a very special place in the nostalgic part of my memory. It's when I really got into this corner of the Internet.
But over time, that Reader time moved to Twitter. I started using Twitter in 2009 as well, and what started as a bit of a social novelty eventually became a combination of social site and news source. After a few years, Twitter was where I found blogs to read, not Reader. And it had the added benefit of conversations happening in the same place, linking all these blogs and bloggers together with the readers.
It's funny that I liked the conversations on Twitter because I have always hated comments on blogs. It seemed like a place for trolls to go to start arguments. I felt like the noise of all that negativity spoiled anything good in the comments section. So I just ignored them.
But on reflection, Twitter being a news source and social site is basically just the comments section of a site, with occasional reference to the main article. The comments are the main event there. And that was fun for a while. But it stopped being fun, and it's taken me a while to realise what was missing. The actual articles. In-depth thought, and replies on other people's blogs which had the same depth. Not hot takes and trolling that could all be spat out while sitting on the toilet.
Twitter's algorithm doesn't reward deep thought or considered nuance. It rewards opinions that will generate a reaction, and a negative reaction is much easier to achieve. So lots of negative sentiment gets rewarded, and that in turn makes it less enjoyable to be part of. Over there last few years, I've noticed lots of previously active Twitter users becoming less engaged, often blaming negativity, trolling, and worse.
And that's the Twitter that we had before it was bought. Lots of hot takes, lots of negativity being algorithmically rewarded. Far less civil conversation or nuanced thought.
Blogs are cool again
Then the changes happened at the end of last year, and that felt like the final straw for a lot of people. Lots of people stopped using Twitter, often moving to Mastodon but also reviving the old idea of blogging. I'm seeing so many more interesting blogs in my RSS feed now. And I'm more motivated to write too.
And I love it. It's so cool to read articles instead of tweets. Long may it continue.
- Here's an OPML file with my current subscriptions.
- An article on The Verge, of all places, about personal blogging.
- Bring Back Blogging is a site dedicated to bringing back personal blogging, surprisingly enough, with a large directory of blogs to explore.
- Paul Stamatiou, an ex-Twitter employee, takes a deep dive into Mastodon and owning our own content.
Published on 27 January 2023