Turning inner space into outer space

March 21, 2015

New services for bloggers abound but I'm sticking with my tried and true

In case you missed it, blogging is back.

For a while there, blogs had a bad reputation. Many people were writing online diaries with posts that even their moms didn’t really care about.

Bloggers are now being encouraged to write about things that might actually be of interest to the wider world. Anyone wanting to promote their company, for example, is being told to post articles that are genuinely useful to readers — not self-serving bumpf.

And it’s good advice. You’ll make a lot more friends (i.e. customers) by showing yourself to be the real deal.

The bellwether for blogging is WordPress. This open source platform makes it super easy to sign up, choose a theme and start writing. In 2013, founder Matt Mullenweg claimed that WordPress had 46 million downloads and powered 18.9 per cent of the web.

Those numbers have no doubt grown since then.

Meanwhile, an up-and-coming blogging platform called Medium promises a collection of longer, more thoughtful posts, presented with top-notch typography. It was created by Ev Williams, who helped establish the venerable and Twitter.

Medium certainly delivers on its promise, but there are drawbacks. Your work is basically thrown in the mix with a bunch of other posts, and you have no control over the design.

You might think design is no big deal, but WordPress fans do indeed agonize over which theme to choose. There is a whole industry of designers selling themes to WordPress bloggers.

Added to the mix in recent years are do-it-yourself services that allow you to create your site without knowing a thing about code. Webflow and Webydo are a couple of the better ones.

Coming soon is The Grid, which does all the designing for you with the magic of artificial intelligence. You upload the text and pictures, and it does the rest.

Once in a while, I get excited by this new technology and think about moving newsonaut to one of them. I doubt that will ever happen, though, because the platform I’ve been using all these years — Textpattern — has way too many advantages.

First of all, it’s free and open source. The same can be said of WordPress, but Textpattern also makes it easy to design your own site. With WordPress, even people who know a lot about coding will choose a pre-made theme and modify it to their taste because creating one from scratch is way too complicated.

With Textpattern, you can craft a blog design with HTML and CSS that looks however you like. Sprinkle in some Textpattern tags and you’re good to go.

Of course, that’s not for everyone. I can understand that some people just want to write and click “publish.” Some of us, though, want to actually be the publisher.