I kind of want Webmentions to show up on my blog posts. I’ve been fighting them on my Hugo blog and they’re winning. Put this one in the “Pluses” column for WordPress.

My blog is a mess and I’m fine with that

I wonder how much time I’ve spent worrying about my various blogs. So much time, is how much.

Should I include short posts on the main timeline? Should I always use titles? Is it too cluttered if there’s a sidebar with recent posts and whatnot? Serif or no? Static HTML is cool, but I wonder if I should just make things easy and use WordPress.

It’s endless!

All of this is fun to think about, but I’ve sort of stopped worrying about the shape of things around here. I’ve posted whatever I’ve felt like posting to wherever I felt like posting it in whatever format I felt like at the time.

My writing has never been precise, why should my blog be? I play pretty fast and loose with content, so why should the blog be tidy and carefully considered? And who wants everything to look like a Medium post, anyway?

So yeah, it’s messy here. It’s inconsistent. It’s unfocused. I love it.

The Downsides of a Static Site Generator – Drinking Caffeine

Martyn Chamberlin:

On the whole, the cons of a static file generator seem less tangible than the pros

This is a topic I’m a little obsessed with. I struggle with static-vs-CMS on a regular basis. Martyn makes good points, but also a few that make less sense to me. Each of his points favoring static site generators are spot on, although just saying they’re “geekier” would be enough. No need to blame it on ego.

It’s the downsides that I have some issues with.

Database-driven design gives you better flexibility

I’d say it gives you different flexibility. Some of the things done using a database come easily for us ego-driven nerds using text files and our favorite editor. The SSG handles most of the rest.

Every time you do a new deploy in a file-driven system, you have to rebuild the entire website

That’s true. On the other hand, with a WordPress site you have to rebuild each page every time it’s requested 1.

Yes, there’s a slight performance cost to increasing the number of rows in the wp_posts table, but it’s infinitesimal compared to increasing the file count in a file-driven system

Re-rendering my entire 3000+ page Hugo site takes about 2 seconds, so I don’t agree with this one. “Infinitesimal” seems a bit of an exaggeration, at least. I don’t feel at all like I’m slowing anything down by adding new static posts to Hugo. And again, any performance hit is once-per-deployment rather than once-per-view.

Related, every time you write a new post in Hugo, you’re creating a new file in a flat directory. Pretty soon you have hundreds or thousands of files

Yep. I have thousands of small, easily manageable, storable, backup-able, versionable text files in whatever directory structure I want on my own machine. So soothing!

WordPress has 28% of the global market. How much does Jekyll have? How much does Hugo have? A lot less than that.

True. The ecosystem around a product is important. There are two parts of the longevity consideration: How long the platform is available, and how long the content is available. He misses the second part here. I’m convinced that the odds of my content being available as a static site in 40 years is higher than if I were running it with WordPress. And even the platform availability matters less with a static generator, as I expect to be able to render static Markdown files using something for the foreseeable future. Still, he’s right about the ecosystem. WordPress offers a ton of resources.

It’s harder to get Go compiled and running than PHP and MySQL, simply because PHP and MySQL are more popular

I don’t understand this one, since you don’t even need to have Go installed to use Hugo. Hugo is a self-contained, pre-compiled binary with basically zero dependencies. Jekyll is a different story, but for some reason he didn’t use that in his example.

Getting your content from WordPress is a lot easier than from Jekyll or Hugo. That’s because it’s easier to get importable data out of a database than it is from a collection of markdown files.

I don’t understand this one either. I don’t have to “get my content” from Hugo. I already have it, no? It’s more like I have to put my content into Hugo than get it out.

Anyway, I’m not trying to pick on the article, really. I struggle with these same issues so I’m just using it as a way to think things through.

I run both static sites (Hugo and Blot) and CMS-managed sites (WordPress and SquareSpace). Both have merits, which is why I can never pick just one!

For me it tends to come down to convenience. I find WordPress more convenient to publish with. Click…type…click…done. The decision is harder with longer, more text-heavy writing, but I frequently post short pieces containing images and there’s no contest there. Drag a photo into WordPress and everything is taken care of for me. Some UIs for SSGs are starting to make this easier, though.

With a SSG, there’s more distance between the writing and the results (although Blot comes close here). See WordPress is a Typewriter.

Other things I think about…

Backups are pretty easy both ways. I don’t worry about losing content due to a database. Anything longer than a paragraph is usually written locally as text first, so I always have that copy. I also run httrack occasionally (gives me a static version of my entire WP site) and export everything occasionally to XML or whatever. That last bit is beyond what “regular” people are likely to do, but for me it works.

For me the biggest difference is on the hosting side. Static sites can just be dropped anywhere and will be fast, secure, and easy. WordPress is, while not difficult, more of a pain to host. It’s also prone to security and performance issues.

With all that said, I’m typing this in MarsEdit for posting to my WordPress blog. So there’s that.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

  1. I’m conveniently ignoring the option of WP static caching here. 

A Remaining Problem with Title-less Posts

When showing title-less posts in the archives, I would prefer to show the first few words of the post rather than nothing. Is there an easy way to do that?

UPDATE 2018-07-15: I ended up making a child theme and hooking into the simple-yearly-archive plugin, which I’m using for the archives page.

The only catch is that the plugin doesn’t include the post content column in the query so I had to edit the actual plugin query to include the column and also pass the entire $post object in the sya_the_title hook. I’ll have to watch out for updates, as they’ll overwrite this. Or I’ll just need to fork it.

add_filter( 'sya_the_title', 'my_sya_filter_title', 10, 2 );

function my_sya_filter_title( $title, $post ) {
	return $title == '' ? jab_truncate(strip_tags($post->post_content)) : $title;

function jab_truncate($string,$length=50,$append="…") {
  $string = trim($string);

  // break at word
  if(strlen($string) > $length) {
    $string = wordwrap($string, $length);
    $string = explode("\n", $string, 2);
    $string = $string[0] . $append;

  return $string;

Contention on micro.blog

Chip and Dale

Conversations on Micro.blog have been getting a bit feisty lately. I like this, as for a while things were maybe just a tiny bit too nice. Difficult topics tended to be silently stepped around, which could make for a bit of a Chip and Dale vibe. Nothing wrong with politeness of course. Micro.blog has been a welcome reprieve from the toxic awfulness that Twitter tends to generate. Still, this newfound friendly contentiousness has added a bit of spark to the place and it’s been fun.

People are posting and discussing things that are Capital-I Important to them. This brings out new levels of enthusiasm. It also brings out rebuttals and countering viewpoints. These are all good things.

So far threads have been, while sometimes heated, relatively polite and productive. On the few occasions someone went a bit too far, there have been apologies and the conversations continued. Isn’t this how it’s supposed to work? Feels right to me.

I’ve even unfollowed someone for the first time. Not because I didn’t agree with him, but because I wasn’t interested in the topic he was so passionate about. Or at least I wasn’t interested discussing it within Micro.blog. Again, it works.

My hope is that Micro.blog’s follower-count-hiding social-network-atop-personal-blogs model is the secret sauce keeping things interesting but civil. It remains to be seen if this is sustainable with growth over time. Contention can lead to antagonistic hostility if left unchecked or in the wrong hands.

Micro.blog is my favorite place online right now and I would love to see it thrive in its own way. I’m optimistic.

Accidentally using WordPress

For the last week or so I’ve been posting to jack.baty.net, a WordPress-managed blog. This wasn’t intentional. I’m supposed to be putting everything on baty.net, which is statically rendered (by Hugo).

I guess I haven’t felt like “writing a blog post”. Instead I felt like posting stuff. WordPress makes everything so easy. Maybe too easy.

I keep threatening to consolidate everything on baty.net but I’m realizing it may never happen. I’ve got baty.net for when I’m slow and serious, and this blog for when I just want to post something.

One side effect of using titles on “micro” posts

Blog posts with a title are not displayed in full on the micro.blog feed. Micro.blog will only show the title and a link to the post.

I love the interaction that takes place on Micro.blog and worry that if only links to my short posts show there, people won’t bother to click through and the conversations won’t happen. And, if they do click through, it won’t be worth it just for a 240-character snippet I just fired off without much thought. I don’t want to waste people’s time that way.

On the other hand, looking at my blog from more than a decade ago reminded me that I like titles. Even on short posts. This means that I can either blog the way I want to blog and potentially miss out on some fun discussions. Or, I can twist things so that they are rendered more optimally on micro.blog.

I’ve decided I should just blog how I want to blog. Micro.blog is awesome (I love you all), but it’s better as an adjunct to my blog and not the other way around.

Hope that’s ok.

We got blogging right 20 years ago

I’m feeling especially nostalgic for the Good Old Days of Blogging™. Looking at my blog from 2003 makes me think we got blogging right early on.

2018 06 20 White Noise Feb 2003

That’s one of the earliest captures of my blog that I could find on archive.org. I miss it. Look at that sidebar with a blogroll and XML icon. “Powered by blosxom”! I may even adjust my current theme to be a bit more mid-2000-ey, just for kicks.

I wonder if there are plans for micro.blog themes to display webmentions out of the box. Or short of that, if there’s an easy way for me to add them without too much futzing about.

Maybe your blog post doesn’t need that 2000-pixel header image

Allow me a brief rant about the trend of putting ginormous, unnecessary images at the top of every single blog post or article. Here it is:

Please don’t always include ginormous, unnecessary images at the top of every single blog post or article.

That would be great, thanks.

I haven’t read the entire Terms of Service for Medium.com, but I assume there must be a clause that says “You must place an image of at least 1800×1300 pixels above any useful article text, no matter the length of the article itself. The article’s title may, however, be placed above the image.”

Like this:

Totally random example with no offense meant to Tyler Elliot Bettilyon

That is the top of what is otherwise an interesting article about something completely unrelated to the 2000×1333 (1MB) image you see filling up the entire world.

Sure, it’s a cool photo (Kev Soto), but what’s it for? I’m guessing there’s a listicle somewhere (probably on Medium) called “10 Things Every Blogger Must Do To Be Successful!” and item 2 on that list is “Find an image, any image (relevance to the post is unimportant), and slap it right up top for no apparent reason.”

I’m sure it’s been demonstrated that including an “eye-catching graphic” on every post increases “audience engagement” by 47.5% but isn’t it really just a waste of time, bandwidth, and mental well-being?

I’ve been testing Pocket as my “read later” service and here’s what my list looks like:

Not useful article images

Only one of those has an even remotely useful image associated with it. If I squint, those thumbnails look kind of nice, but when actually trying to use the page to find something to read, they’re just distracting noise.

And oh goody! Medium recently hooked up with Unsplash to make adding giant, off-topic images even easier…

But first

I get why people do this, and I don’t expect anyone to stop doing it. I just wish they would.

UPDATE: More (and better) words on this from Hanson O’Haver (The Outline): Not Every Article Needs a Picture

Where to Microblog?

Where should I keep a microblog? I have gone back and forth on this since the early days of Tumblr and I’m still not sure I’ve resolved it. Pardon me while I think this through.

I define a “microblog” post as something that does not need a title: short, Twitter-like bursts or snapshot images with a brief caption are perfect examples. Link posts are somewhere in between, as they benefit from a title but don’t need one.

The concern is that short, title-less posts or images will somehow clutter up my precious blog. This is of course nonsense, because my blog is nowhere near precious. And by precious I mean:

derogatory: affectedly concerned with elegant or refined behavior, language, or manners: his exaggerated, precious manner.

(This doesn’t mean it’s not priceless to me. It very much is.)

My blog has never been “serious”. I don’t worry about sticking to publishing timelines or making sure I’ve thought everything through with each post. I usually don’t even edit before posting. I reserve that for the “oh shit!” moments after clicking “Publish”.

I like Dave Winer’s definition:

“Blogging is thinking aloud into an outliner that has a Publish button on it.”

That’s more my style.

I guess I’ve found my answer, then. Microblog posts are going to remain right here at jack.baty.net for now. And I’m going to let them flow right through the home page with everything else.

I am, however, leaving microblog posts out of the main RSS feed, so if you don’t like the noise, that’s one way to filter it out.

Oh, and if you don’t have a blog or just want a microblog, please consider Manton Reece’s Micro.blog service. It’s terrific.

Thanks for listening.

Friends vs Followers on Micro.blog

If I’m honest, the reason I originally backed and then joined Micro.blog by Manton Reese is that I enjoy tinkering with new platforms and social networks. I try them all. Manton’s ideas about “owning your content” and the hooks into IndieWeb ideas were just icing.

I came for the novelty, but stayed because it’s become my favorite place to be.

@Smokey’s recent post, Two Weeks with Micro.blog, had me nodding in agreement throughout. He lists some great reasons to enjoy being part of the Micro.blog community.

Beyond Smokey’s spot-on list, I’d like to point out a feature of Micro.blog that is so small it’s easy to overlook; There’s no way to know how many followers other people have. This may seem trivial, or even an oversight, but I’m convinced that it’s a critical component of Micro.blog. It is for me, anyway.

Years ago on Twitter, I would use follower counts as an indicator of authority or perhaps as a way to gauge someone’s impact on a community or topic. With so many followers, he or she must have useful or interesting things to say, right? That probably wasn’t a great way to think about follower counts even then, but it worked as often as not.

Today however, it’s become about gaming the system. High follower counts on social networks only demonstrate an ability to gain followers. Not useful. This leads to replies on Twitter feeling like nothing more than desperate grabs for attention.

On Micro.blog, replies feel like a conversation with a person. Imagine that.

I check Micro.blog many times a day, but not for entertainment or to see how many faves I’ve gotten. I do it to see what my friends are up to.

It may be presumptuous to call the people I follow on Micro.blog “friends”, since I don’t actually know any of them, but I can’t think of a better word. I certainly don’t call them “followers”.

Blog Consolidation

(I originally posted this as the last post on www.baty.net but thought I'd copy it here.)

The end of each year always has me thinking about simplifying things. To that end, I’m going to try consolidating my online presence. I’ll no longer be posting at www.baty.net.

For blogging, I’m going to try posting everything here at jack.baty.net.

Anything longer or more “important” than a tweet goes on the One True Blog™.

For shorter things, I’ll probably use Mastodon and cross-post to Twitter and via RSS to micro.blog. “But what about owning your content!?” you ask. Lately, the way I figure it if it’s not important enough for a title I don’t care if I “own” it or not. If that changes I'll probably just keep a hosted micro.blog blog for short posts.