Making No Changes
I’m disenfranchised with the WordPress development process, but I still think WordPress is a fairly groovy application. It lets me do what I want, and mostly stays out of my way. I say “mostly” because having used it for two years, it’s hard for me to differentiate what works very well and what I’ve learned to just work around.
I’m not currently interested in exporting all of my data, importing it into some other application, and then learning to deal with a whole new set of things that mostly work. As such, I’ll be sticking with WordPress for the immediate future. Moreover, looking around at the available options for blogging, none of the alternatives – or the sites powered by them – have me saying “Wow, I want that!”. They all do the same things, by and large: publish content, accept comments, and manage some links. That’s all there is to blogging, right? Different tools offer more in some areas, and less in others. I’ve come to realize that my own blogging habits are, as near as I can tell, substantially different from what many blog applications – particularly WordPress – expect. This realization got me to thinking about the motivations people have for blogging. I know tons of people have written about this subject before – I don’t claim to have any unique insights. Yes, I’m painting with a broad brush, and yes there will always be exceptions. As I see it, there are basically four groups of bloggers: basic, intermediate, advanced, and SEO fools. This rough list is ordered in decreasing order by number of participants (arguably there are more SEO fools than advanced bloggers, but I don’t count SEO fools as regular bloggers, as such).
- Basic bloggers want to publish content. They're not particularly fussy about the tool they use, and will likely use whatever tool their peers use (MySpace, LiveJournal, WordPress.com, etc). They don't seek a specific audience, save maybe their friends and family. Their motivations for blogging are purely personal, and largely self-satisfying. This is by far the largest group of bloggers.
- Intermediate bloggers like to look at, and occasionally tinker with, the plumbing of their site. They'll learn a smattering of CSS or PHP in order to personalize their site in the unending stream of blog after blog using the same themes. Many intermediate bloggers blog for personal reasons, but it's been my experience that many also have a specific topic or audience in mind, even if they still publish primarily for self-satisfaction.
- Advanced bloggers fall into two camps: writers and coders. Advanced blog writers are authors: they live for publishing. Many make a reasonable living writing on their blogs (see Gizmodo, Kottke, boingboing, etc for examples). Advanced blog coders are always pushing the cutting edge of the software, always finding new ways to extend their tools. They're the ones who quickly adopt things like tags-as-categories, and participate in the CSS reboots on a regular basis, and track incoming links from Technorati.
- SEO fools use blogs solely as a way to make money without exercising any real effort. They trick search engines into driving hits to their sites solely so that they can make advertising revenue. These creeps don't care about the quality of their content outside of its "keywords" value. They don't care about their audience except as eyeballs for their advertisements. In my involvement with WordPress, I've seen a lot of people using WordPress for their SEO scams. There's an entire cottage industry around it. I have zero respect for any of these people.
I’ve come to realize that I fall more into the basic blogger category than I do the intermediate category, with the notable exception that I do care about the tool I use, and want to run the blog on my own server. Further, I don’t give a wet slap about most of the things advanced bloggers get all excited about. I don’t have a specific audience in mind: I write what I feel like writing for myself, with the perhaps naive hope that someone somewhere will find it interesting. Since I don’t have a specific audience, I don’t have a specific interest in pulling in traffic. I don’t care about Technorati. I don’t care about tags, or linking into del.icio.us, because I don’t expect people to navigate my site looking for more posts on the same subject. I’m not trying to make a buck from my blog, so I’m not going to stuff advertising onto my pages, or break up posts into many pages to increase ad views.
The development of blog software, after a while, seems like all the navel gazing for which blogging itself is so often reviled. I don’t care about the philosophical differences between pingbacks and trackbacks. I don’t care about the technological differences of RSS and Atom. I don’t care about XMLRPC posting, or blog-by-email, or fancy movable widgets in my sidebar, or a rich text editing interface, or a spell checker, or a links manager. All of that stuff distracts me from what I want from a blogging package.
Bob asks what I want for skippy.net. For the time being, I want what I have, and possibly a little bit less. I’m not going to switch to Drupal, for example, because I think that’s too “heavy” an application. I’m not going to switch to anything else any time soon because I know how to make WordPress do what I want. In the weeks ahead, I’ll likely want WordPress to do even less than it does now. And I know I’m not particularly keen on tracking the future versions of WordPress, as they’ll only add more cruft I won’t use – spellcheck, enhanced bookmark tools, widgets, etc. I complained last June, and proposed what I thought was a slightly more svelt interface for the one screen on which I spend most of my time. Oh well.
I might take another look at Blosxom (or even ikiwiki, or MicroWiki), since the “less is more” mentality is really starting to take hold of me. And I might look harder at SteamPress, too. Any tool that stays out of my way is worth considering. But for now, I’ll stick with the status quo, simply because moving all my data is too much bother. Maybe I’ll make a name for myself by writing a WordPress export tool…