Sometimes you just want to write something. Maybe you have something specific to say, maybe not. Maybe you have nothing to say at all, but just want to get something out there.

Maybe you’ve set yourself a target, and having missed a day (and being aware that you’ll doubtless miss others) you’ve decided you want to keep the average up. So that at the end of 2017 you’ll be able to look back at at least 365 posts in the year.

Maybe at the start of the year, that was about as many posts as were on your blog in its whole history. So it’s a major challenge. But maybe you keep going, even with nothing to say.


Should a Blog Have a Theme?

Yes, yes, it’s all very meta: all I ever write about is blogging.1 But that is exactly what I want to talk about today: is a blog better if it is only on one subject?2

I suspect that the most successful blogs in terms of size of readership are fairly closely focused on a single subject. I read several technology blogs, such as Daring Fireball, Six Colours and MacStories, which all write mainly about technology with an Apple slant. They have all achieved success by keeping that focus.3

On the other hand, there are some highly enjoyable ones that take a broader scope: Tim Bray’s Ongoing, John Scalzi’s Whatever, or Wil Wheaton‘s blog; those authors write about whatever4 takes their fancy.

I, as you’ll have noticed, take the latter tack. But the question is, should I be more focused? Should I concentrate on writing about politics, say?5

It’s worth considering, certainly, but here’s the thing: I’m not actually sure what I would focus on. I don’t think I have the single-mindedness to keep to the same subject. I value the flexibility of the old-school, personal blog.

Which is just as well, since that’s what I seem to be writing. So there you go.

  1. Or politics. []
  2. However broad that may be. []
  3. Though it’s worth noting that recent world events have caused some of them to get a bit more political than previously. []
  4. The clue is even in one of the names. []
  5. Some would say that wouldn’t be so very different from now. []
Should a Blog Have a Theme?

Some More Bitface Thoughts

Something I forgot to mention yesterday was that I thought the “bitface” term was useful not just to refer to people who manipulate bits for a living (or hobby) — programmers, like myself. It can also work to discuss anyone who makes digital content: websites, blogs, podcasts, videos, photos, and so on.

We’re all moving bits around. We’re all labourers at the bitface.

Some More Bitface Thoughts

The Origin of the Bitface

Things go quicker than you think. This tweet post1 was inspired by a tweet, and I thought it wasn’t too long ago. But in fact it was April last year.

My friend Yusuf’s tweet inspired me to finally write about the term “biftace” and why I chose it and what it means. Actually I thought I had written this before, but it seems not.

So a long time ago, when I was first thinking of a name for my blog — before it even existed, indeed — I thought about the way the press used to refer to teachers working “at the chalkface.” The analogy with miners at the coalface was probably original meant to disparage the labour of teachers as being less than that of miners. I’m guessing here, but considering the term seems to have originated in tabloid journalism, and tabloids tend to be disparaging of anything intellectual — though to be fair, they haven’t exactly been friends to miners either, over the years.

Anyway, I quite liked the term, and wanted to come up with something similar to refer to my own industry, that of programming. I tried out one or two for size, at least in my head. “Byteface” felt more accurate (it’s rare for an application programmer to care to much about bit-level things, and I mainly write Java, which compiles to bytecode); but it didn’t feel right.”Codeface” would have been another, but again, didn’t feel right.

“Bitface” did feel right, and so an early version became “The Bitface Diaries.” I don’t think I ever made that live.

When I started my Livejournal (which nowadays is just one of my syndication targets) I went with “Tales from the Bitface,” which I still like. And then when I decided to set up my own site I went with “A Labourer at the Bitface,” which harked back to the original impetus for inventing the word, and also alluded to my support for the Labour Party.

Which means I’m considering a rename now, as I consider my future in said party. But that’s another blog entry.

The conversation with with Yusuf was about hardware, which is not what the term was about. But I never worked out what we should call working with hardware in similar terminology.

  1. Post! This post, not this tweet. []
The Origin of the Bitface

Success for

Manton Reece’s Kickstarter campaign for, which I wrote about before, was successful. In fact very successful. He made his stretch goal, which means he’ll be able to employ a part-time Community Manager for the service, which should help with the kind of abuse that we’ve seen on Twitter over the years.

So congratulations to him. And as a backer I look forward to getting the devilgate username shortly.

Not that I’ll actually need a username on the site, I don’t think, as I expect to be using it to post short entries here, syndicated to Twitter. But it won’t hurt to have it. If only to stop someone else masquerading as me, like on Ebay.1

  1. OK, they’re not actually masquerading, but last time I looked (a long time ago) there was a more-or-less dormant account called devilgate, which wasn’t me. I mean, unless it was, and I had somehow set it up using an email address that I didn’t have, or something. []
Success for

One Month Gone

As you’ll know if you’ve been paying attention, I’ve challenged myself to blog every day this year. Well, the first twelfth of the year (approximately) has gone, and I’ve succeeded so far (my problems posting last Saturday notwithstanding).

One or two posts were extremely short, maybe just a link and a few words. But most of them have been more substantial. So I’m quite pleased with my progress so far. I’m not sure that it’s making me write more — well, by definition it is, as I have to write something every day.1

So: blogging about blogging. It’s a fine tradition. And thirty-two days in a row now.

  1. I could write posts in advance and set them to publish on a future day, but there’s no need for that. Maybe when I go on holiday I’ll have to do that. []
One Month Gone

Lost Drafts

You may think my last post was late, in that I didn’t post it on Saturday, but rather today, Sunday. And that is literally true. However, I wrote the original draft of it on Saturday morning. I then saved it as a draft in WordPress (or so I thought).

Later that day, while I was out and about, I tried to put the finishing touches to it and post it. But I couldn’t find it. It didn’t appear in the list of posts in WordPress.

And it was nowhere to be found. Luckily I had written most of the draft in a text editor (Bear, to be specific), and that was still there. So I was able to recover it. And WordPress lets you override today’s date when you post an entry, so I was able to make it be dated on the day it was actually written. I’m giving myself that one, as meeting my challenge. I wrote it on the day, even if I didn’t post it till the day after.

But ths is the second time recently that I’ve lost a draft. An email the last time, but it feels like a worrying trend. I’m going to have to be more careful with things.

On the positive side, today’s post just wrote itself.

Lost Drafts

Independent Microblogging

Twitter is great in many ways, but it’s far from problem-free. (Thought experiment: if Twitter hadn’t existed, would Trump have got elected?)

The abuse and lack of tools to combat it are of course the major ones. Lindy West’s Guardian article on leaving Twitter is only the latest such.

But another problem is the old one of owning your own words. Of controlling the platform on which you publish. I’ve posted briefly about this before (though that was Google, rather than Twitter). Sure, Twitter isn’t likely to go bust and delete everyone’s tweets without any warning. But you never know when they’re going to change a policy, or change ownership, or make some other change that — deliberately or not — shuts down your access, removes your entire history, or otherwise lessens or removes the experience.

There have been attempts to build open alternatives, such as Diaspora, but I confess that I’ve only ever come away from it confused.

It would be better if there were a simple way we could all publish to our own sites, but still get the benefit of Twitter’s network. Say hello to a new approach from Manton Reece, blogger, podcaster and developer.

It should allow us to post Tweet-style short posts on our own sites, and also send them to Twitter. Which may give us the best of both worlds.

As well as developing the service and the app, he’s writing a book about the subject of indie microblogging, and has a Kickstarter going to help him out. It’s worth offering a few bucks if you’re at all interested in the matter.

Independent Microblogging