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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. 

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.

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 originally 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. 

Success for Micro.blog

Manton Reece’s Kickstarter campaign for Micro.blog, 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 no longer have, or something. 

Beginning of the End

A total of 47 Labour MPs voted against the Brexit bill, joining 50 SNP MPs and seven Liberal Democrats. Just one Conservative MP, Ken Clarke, joined them in the division lobbies, to applause from Labour rebels.

A fifth of Labour MPs defy three line whip to vote against article 50 bill | Politics | The Guardian

Well done to all the rebels. But really, Tories: only one? Only Ken Clarke? Is that really you doing your duty, acting in the best interests of the country?

We’re living through the death of representative democracy.

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. 

Which is Worse?

I’ve been saying for a while now that Brexit is worse than Trump, because Trump is only for four years1 — less if he gets impeached or twenty-fived, which is almost certain; but Brexit is foreever.

But Trump is moving so fast, following through so fiercely on his campaign promises, that even if he doesn’t last, he’s going to do incredible damage to the USA, and to the world.

And then there’s pieces like “Trial Balloon for a Coup?,” which, along with the stories it links to, is terrifying. If the things suggested there were to come true, Trump and his successors could be forever, too.

And even if they manage to get rid of him, that means Pence takes over, which would be its own class of awful. He at least knows something about government and the Constitution, though. I guess?

So I don’t know. Brexit, if we can’t stop it, is going to be bad for the economy, jobs, and society; but despite the hard-right support for it, I don’t think it means the country is being turned into a fascist state. On the other hand, after a Tory-led hard Brexit they could make the UK into what they’ve always wanted: a tax-haven for the rich and sweatshop for the poor, with permanent austerity policies.

And there’s no opposition to speak of.

But Trump…

But Brexit…


  1. OK, it could go to eight, but who really expects that? 

Things We Can’t See

There are certain interesting TV programmes that I’d like to see but I can’t watch for ethical reasons.

If you’ve been around here much before you’ll be familiar with my contempt for Rupert Murdoch and all his works. I’m far from alone in that attitude, of course. But this means, most notably, that I would never get Sky TV. That has only ever mildly bothered me on the odd occasion when they’re showing a film I’d like to see that isn’t available elsewhere.

But things have taken a turn for the worse lately, and it’s largely the fault of an American TV company that I generally heartily approve of: HBO.

Actually the rot probably started to set in when Sky got the rights for Mad Men Season 5, after the first four had been on BBC 2. I’ve still never got round to seeing the later seasons.

But the problem with HBO shows is that Sky has the exclusive UK right for something like five years. And that means I haven’t been able to see Westworld. Which is a shame, because everyone was talking about it a few weeks ago.

More worryingly by a long way for me, though, is that the new series of Twin Peaks, which is not being made by HBO, but something called Showtime. It’s due out in May, I believe, and guess who has the UK rights?

Showtime seem to have a streaming service, so maybe that’ll work here. I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t, though.

On the other hand, in doing some research when writing this, I discovered that Westworld is available to download via iTunes, so maybe the same will be true for Twin Peaks.

Either way, it’s going to cost. It would be a lot better if these kinds of things could go to proper channels.

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.