I’ve been feeling reflective this week—so here are a few reflections on the experience of blogging in 2023, and on using Micro.blog as my main microblogging platform, which I’ve been doing since October. (This follows my thoughts on resuming sending out my email newsletter, Lightplay].)
As a writer, I find it to be a great gift to have a gradient of formality in the places that I publish. At the high end of formality would be the book project I’m working on, or the 6,000-word history of Antioch University’s “Great Expansion," which I published as the cover story for this year’s Antioch Alumni Magazine (print circulation ~40,000). For these kinds of writing projects, the standard of writing has to be quite high, going through many drafts, multiple editors, proofreaders, etc. A bit less high-stakes might be a news story I write for my job, that gets posted online. But still, I’ve got to get it right—this kind of writing is my livelihood.
Lower down the formality gradient is something like Lightplay, which I’ve found works best if the register is that of a friendly letter from a caring friend. I try to keep it easy, so I can write an edition over the course of a few hours in the evening, edit the next day, and get it out. And it’s great to write like this, not stressing too much, and putting it in front of readers just a few days later. It keeps one from getting too precious.
But I can get psyched out by even something as low-stakes as a newsletter sent to a few hundred people. So: the blog. And even better: the microblog! (“Microblog” generally refers to a place where you post things under ~280 characters; the most notable platforms for this are Twitter and Mastodon.) Here’s the sort of thing I might think up and post here, all within a minute or two:
My microblogging began last September. It was before the Muskrat finished buying Twitter, and I found myself off work on parental leave and with significant little chunks of free time as the baby slept. So I decided to set myself the goal of posting something—anything—on Twitter every day for three weeks. (For the deranged completist, here’s the archive of all my tweets.) At the end of my experiment I realized that I enjoyed posting, but I hated the “like” counter at the bottom of every tweet, which revealed that only three Twitter users liked me (wife, dad, friend in Maine). I’m pitiably susceptible to feeling like a loser, and the little popularity ticker is one of my biggest triggers. Despite my enjoyment of posting, Twitter made me feel bad.
Around that time, I found out about Micro.blog, which is a service adjacent to Twitter but all its own thing. For $10/month, Micro.blog lets me:
- host my blog on my own custom domain (jasper.land)
- post via their app (which I use on iPhone) or via the excellent MarsEdit (which I use on my computer)
- cross-post everything to Mastodon (I used to have it cross-post to Twitter; in the future I may have it cross-post to Bluesky)
- distribute my posts via newsletter, if people sign up for that
I can’t over-state how much better it feels to have my own little blog feed on Jasperland, versus having all my tweet-size posts hosted on an ad-funded platform that is liable to hostile takeover by a white nationalist billionaire. But even if Twitter had remained a public company, I still much prefer to own my own feed.
It makes me much more likely to post. Partly this is just because of what it lacks: the like counter. But I also think I am drawn to the feeling that I’m building my own little cache of words and images and ideas, my own little edifice, here on Jasperland. Tweeting always felt like it was chasing engagement and likes and retweets. A post on jasper.land, even though relatively few people might end up seeing it, feels self-justifying, like writing in a journal.
You can tell it’s been a hit, because I’ve posted here 112 times in the last 8 months. And I’m excited to keep posting, moving forward. Maybe in five years I’ll have a thousand posts on here—a little archive of what I was reading and thinking about.
One tweak that I made this week is to adjust the newsletter settings within Micro.blog. Previously I set it up in the configuration where it would send subscribers the full text of all posts longer than 280 words. I thought that would be great—if I wrote a full-length blog post, a few people would actually read it. (I have three subscribers.)
What ended up happening is: for the four months since I set it up that way, I don’t think I have posted a single blog post longer than 280 characters. Something about the knowledge that it would trigger an email getting sent out made posting a longer blog post feel strangely high-stakes. I don’t know exactly what I was worried about, but if I had to boil it down it would be: fear of wasting someone’s time. The whole point of the blog is to have a low-stakes place to post my writing, but the newsletter feature raised the stakes ever so slightly. It’s a weird part of my psychology as a writer: a small fear can block me, sometimes indefinitely.
Recognition and acceptance are among the first steps to healing, so this week I changed the newsletter feature. Now it’s going to send an email to subscribers every Saturday, no matter what. That email will have all my microblogs along with links and previews to longer pieces. Søren Kierkegaard once said, “Do it or do not do it, you will regret both.” For me the freeing corollary is: post a longer blog post or do not post a longer blog post, your subscribers will receive an email on Saturday either way.
We’ll see how that goes long-term. And of course, I don’t know how I’ll feel about Jasperland in six months or a few years. Maybe I’ll go back to microblogging directly on a platform. Maybe I’ll give up microblogging entirely. But I suspect I’ll remain here, posting in my own little realm, finally having found the right low-formality medium, happy as a clam.