Long live personal websites, Let's make the web personal again!

November 13, 2022

As we're building Nym, an open-source spiritual successor to Blogger & Wordpress, we'd like to revisit the ideas of our forebears whose ideas have paved the path for us to build the next generation of personal website & blogging software on.

Today we give thanks to the personal website, an increasingly rare combination of blog and personal CV, that has been declining in popularity in recent years as social networking sites like facebook, twitter and even linkedin/github have risen to host users online 'presence'.

Personal Websites we ❤️

These websites make us nostalgic for a forgotten era of 'personal publishing', where individuals owned their own domain, hosted their own oss software and were able to permissionless publish what they wanted, purely from a sense of personal passion.


Why have a personal website in 2022?

First, having your own little space on the web to publish whatever you want is extremely liberating.

It can also be a great way to stand out when looking for a new job or trying to win a new client (just make sure to tweak the styles enough so it looks somewhat personalized), or let them come to you.

Second, If your goal is to also learn more about web development: then sure, muck around with these tools all you want. I learned a lot from building my website over the years, in all sorts of tools (Geocities, hand-written HTML, shell scripts, PHP, Python, PHP again but this time with MongoDB, back to shell script), and for much of this time I didn't have a lot of content. That was okay because I learned a lot from the process.

Third, and this has been discussed elsewhere. The disappearance of the public web in favor of mobile and web apps, walled gardens (Facebook pages), just-in-time WebSockets loading, and AMP decreases the proportion of the web on the world wide web, which now seems more like a continental web than a "world wide web".

By publishing your own personal website, you're able to ensure the longevity of the content that you publish.

The biggest issue with personal websites? Maintaining and updating them.

I've built websites for friends in the past, but most of them never had any content written. Now I ask people to write some content first and then build a website. Most of the time I never hear about it again because it's hard to write good articles and people (including myself before) tend to be too optimistic about how difficult it is.

Personal website != Personal blog

A solution to the blank screen problem? Small-b Blogging.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”.

And remember that you are your own audience! Small b blogging is writing things that you link back to and reference time and time again. Ideas that can evolve and grow as your thinking and audience grows.

Source: https://tomcritchlow.com/2018/02/23/small-b-blogging/

I'm learning how to write about my own experiences, because I spend most of my free time writing about how we work, whether that's exploring open source, agile or some other topic, getting into compassion and leadership, or whatever else comes to mind.

Paradoxically, writing about what you are truly interested in tends to have the most resonance with an audience vs trying to guess what others are interested in or what will be 'viral' and writing about that.

Future-proofing your personal web presence

The end of the year is an opportunity to clean up and reset for the upcoming quarter or semester. I found myself clearing out old bookmarks—yes, bookmarks: that formerly beloved browser feature that seems to have lost the battle to 'address bar autocomplete'. But this nostalgic act of tidying led me to despair over the status quo.

Blogger, Medium, et.al... will these free services be around in the future after their money dries up as they find a sustainable business model for hosting your thoughts? Will you own the data you published if it's on some social network? Probably not.

This is often shared, but I just read recently an article that comes to mind: https://jeffhuang.com/designed_to_last/

This is more than just link rot, it's the increasing complexity of keeping alive indie content on the web, leading to a reliance on platforms and time-sorted publication formats (blogs, feeds, tweets).

A call to action

So I challenge you to think clearly about the many disparate networks you’re part of, and think about the ideas you might want to offer those networks that don’t get lost in the feed. Ideas you might want to return to.

Think about how writing with and for the network might enable you to start blogging. Forget the big B blogging model, forget Medium or Substack's promise of page views subscribers and claps, forget guest posts on fancy publications.

Come join the network. Bring a blog and re-establish your personal web presence.

Share your personal website or favorite here in the comments👇


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