A view from above

I recently went into the Styrian alps with my family and did some actual hiking. When I was younger, my father used to go hiking with me quite a bit. Being the lazy fuck that I am, I often wished I didn’t have to. That is, until after about an hour or so we sat down in some meadow, opened up my father’s huge, old backpack, got out bread, bacon and cheese and had a fantastic little snack. There’s something about that sort of simple combination that’s just so satisfying, especially when you’re an eight year old kid who feels like he’s famished after an hour of light hiking.

A few decades later, I’m finally realizing that hiking to a mountain-top (or whatever goal you might have) has other merits too. It’s exhausting, which in turn makes your time of idleness seem even sweeter. It’s meditative too: you can just trot on, letting your mind wander. Because, you know, there’s fuck all else to do when you’re on a mountain. Also, there’s nice views from the top. Don’t shoot me for saying it, but standing up there and maybe getting a glimpse of small houses, the odd car, maybe even tiny little people – it lends you a sense of perspective and affords you the realization how significant you are in relation to what else is out there (spoiler alert: not a whole lot).

The pictures below are from my hike with my brother, be prepared for many more posts about hikes with my girlfriend. Who was actually the one to convince me that I should invest in some good shoes. Sage advice.

Reviving the network

Having decided to focus more on writing on my blogs again, I’m realising just how many I’ve created over the years (and subsequently neglected). Over the last two days, I did my inventory: updated plugins, themes, cleaned up the odd, erm, hacked installation and put them all under the roof of the rather handy wordpress.com centralized command.

All of those blogs had their very own raison d’etre, but now that some time has passed and I’ve grown somewhat tired of having to look after all these installations, I’m thinking about maybe consolidating them into one, maybe two roofs. I’m still torn about what to do with each of them, so I’d value your input.

Stormgrass
That’s of course this blog right here. I started it, I think, sometime in 2000, then still without my own domain. Ha, I remember the invigorating feeling when actually accessing it under my own domain. What freedom! What self-expression! Its tagline “The Excitement of Boredom” was actually my own criticism of then prevalent blogging practice. I found most of them dull and thought I could be even duller. I stuck to it, for better or worse. If I’m consolidating my other blogs, this will be the hub. The stormgrass empire, if you will.

Stormgrass Tech
I used to write about technology a lot. Technology in the sense of web services and other consumer-oriented tech products. It was all done on my main blog, but I soon realized that the people who visit my blog to see updates about my personal life (mainly my mother) didn’t really care about the tech updates, and vice versa (currently most links there are broken, which I think is due to some rewrite rules I’ll have to figure out). Creating a separate blog seemed like a good solution. Today, I’m not so sure anymore. There’s a whole bunch of popular blogs out there that don’t have this strict dividing line and I find that rather charming. I’m thinking especially about Ninjas and Robots, the blog of Nathan Kontny, CEO of Highrise. The thing is, he’s got a voice, and that voice is carried through all of his posts, whether they’re technical or personal or whatever else. I do think I should strive for that.

Death by Martini
Yet another fork from my personal blog, this time one oriented towards food and eating and general gastronomical debauchery. I used to write about food a lot, used to post pictures about food a lot. Mind you, that was quite some time before the advent of apps like Instagram. When I realized that there’s actually food blogs out there, I wanted my own. And as it happened with so many of my blogs, after a while it seemed far easier to just post those pictures to Twitter or Facebook and be done with it. My qualms with this blog are similar to those I have with my tech blog. Keep it or incorporate it? I’m too much in love with the name of this blog to just let it go, but maybe it’s the right thing to do.

The self-hosted web
This is not so much a blog, but more of a project about the beauty of self-hosting consumer-oriented software. Think self-hosted Instagram, WordPress, social networks and the like. It was born out of the idea to not give all your content and especially all the discussions that happen around it to other companies. It’s alive, but I haven’t been as active there as I want. Since this really isn’t as personal as my other projects, and more geared towards becoming a community project, it’ll stay where it is. I am always looking for new software that fits this space, so if you’ve got any recommendations, do drop me a note.

Intrepidlytrite
Remember tumblelogs? Yes, exactly, the kind of blogs tumblr was designed after. In a time when Facebook was more of a, well, Facebook and less of a publishing tool and Twitter hadn’t yet taken off, tumblelog was the designated name for a kind of blog that could do without titles, categorization, tags and all that cruft, and let people concentrate on quickly posting stuff. Take note of this Lifehacker article from 2007 detailing the ins and outs of a tumblelog.

Intrepidly Trite was to be that kind of blog. I had it connected to Austrian soup.io for a long time, after that ran a couple of different self-hosted blog variants under the name. Today it’s a bare-bones WordPress installation I had created in order to turn it into my own photo-sharing site. Somehow it didn’t really fit, so I’m not sure yet what to do with it. There’s this beautiful open-source project called “Chyrp” out there, which is basically a tumble-log software to self-host. I might just use this for Intrepidlytrite if I feel the need to have my own tumblelog again. If I don’t, I might shutter the site altogether and just see what else I could use the domain for at some point in the future.

Colordisco
This domain was actually a joke. A couple of years back, companies had this tendency to create apps that were named after common words. There was “Color”, a photo app that sounded promising but didn’t take off, and there was “Disco”, a group messaging app by Google that got sunset basically right after its start. I thought it was a fun idea to get a domain name combining those two. Ironically, today both apps are gone but my domain is still here.

I finally used it to create yet another blog which I envisioned to be something more in the vein of a blog like kottke.org. An aggregator of cool stuff, mostly films, articles of note, videos. Not hugely personal, but simply based on the things I find interesting. As it turned out, I didn’t have enough time to keep it updated regularly. I’m not yet sure what to do with it. It somehow fits the “aside” category on a WordPress installation but could also work as a sideblog (similar to what Helge does here).

Medienschelte
Speaking of Helge, his community blog called “Kobuk” is similar to what I and my friend Daniel had created quite a while ago. Medienschelte was a media-watchblog that detailed the systematic mis-information and error-riddled coverage by the two Austrian tabloids “Österreich” and “Kronenzeitung”. It hasn’t been updated in a long time and probably won’t ever be again. “Kobuk” does a good job with that and I do have to admit, reading those tabloids on a daily basis can be rather detrimental to your mental health.

Hemmer.co
Finally, this is a blog that hasn’t even started yet, but which is going to happen. I’m a trained historian and after working in social media and other rather technical jobs, I’m about to embark on a journey as a freelance historical consultant for TV, film and videogame productions. Hemmer.co will be the place where I’ll write about history, specifically history in the above mentioned products. Do keep your eyes on that (and if you need someone like me, don’t be shy to drop me a note).

So, here we go. The result of roughly 15 years of creating blogs and projects. The landscape of publishing on the web has changed drastically during that time and while blogs haven’t disappeared, they’ve either become neglected (like mine) or been turned into mainstream products that rival traditional publishing outfits on the web. Creating a blog that doesn’t strive to become a viable source of income seems somewhat outlandish today, which is one of the reasons why I think most people who just want to publish with the least amount of hassle simply do it via Facebook or Twitter. It’s due to that development that I find it rather important to revive my network of blogs and maybe, at some point, inspire others to do the same. Not for fame, money or glory, but simply because they can.

Rediscovering blogging

I’ve been blogging for more than 15 years now, and even though there have been gaps in output (most notably the current one which is somewhere in the three years region), I’ve always considered myself a blogger.

The last few years saw the emergence of a new kind of writing. Twitter, Facebook and a myriad of other services made it all too easy to forego the trusty blog and just go and take the easy route of throwing something, anything out there. Not a whole lot of thought, not a whole lot of effort, not a whole lot of anything is needed now to publish (and actually have it read – reading and consuming gets easier too once what you consume is bite-sized). It is what’s been heralded as the democratisation of publishing, and it did bring with it the upsides and the downsides associated with a leveled playing field. I, too, saw most of the upsides and disregarded the downsides. Soon the idea of having to write a blog post complete with title, intro, body and ending seemed like insurmountable obstacles to me.

I had forgotten though, that writing, especially mine, really only comes into its own after its been pondered, rewritten, pondered some more, saved as a draft and maybe even entirely deleted (and then written again) before being published.

While I enjoy writing short, pithy statements on Twitter, or posting pictures without context on whatever other platform, I think it’s time to start using this space (and all the other spaces scattered across the web) again and curb my usage of others. I have a feeling it might not be as difficult as I think, especially if I give myself the freedom to actually write things almost as short as I do on Twitter, once in a while.

I’m not promising world shattering insights (I never did post many of those even in the best of times), but I’m vowing to start putting some more effort into my writing. All the built-in motivators that usually push me to use social platforms (likes, replies, upvotes, favs) won’t be bogging me down, because I doubt even a fraction of those who read my tweets will actually stumble upon this place. So, no pressure there (I might be checking my website stats more, though).

In the vein of a rather old blogging tradition, I’ll also not put a whole lot of effort into making my posts not look like walls of impenetrable text. That said, I will post pictures, simply because I like taking and showing them off. Therefore, have a picture before I conclude this post.

image

I’ll leave you with this piece by Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan. He was imprisoned six years ago for blogging and when he was pardoned this year, he realized that blogging (and with it the whole ecosystem) was more or less gone. He’s the Rip van Winkle of blogging, which makes it an intriguing read and a convincing argument to go back to blogging and move away from the walled gardens of social networks.