The State of the Blog

The art of blogging has come to define the paradigmatic shift in the web from a content-consumption medium to a dynamic, conversational sphere where ideas can be easily shared and everyone can own their slice of the Internet. Blogs have allowed us to write, share and discuss anything and everything, and their “coolness” factor in the early days of Web 2.0 caused many corporations to adopt them as a quick, informal communication method – a way of bridging the gap between brand and consumer, much like what’s happening in the Twitter world with a multitude of “verified” accounts from brands tweeting as a means of keeping their user bases engaged.

Newspapers realised in the early days of blogs that print media and their online offerings were struggling to keep pace with emerging blogs, and if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? Which is what they did. However, the actual art form has come under scrutiny for whether it’s a dying medium today. Certainly, with larger print houses there is a sense that readership of content-specific blogs are dwindling, along with technological shifts, that are dictating a move away from blogging and back to more quality-focused content production (rather than the rapid-fire, continuous stream that blogging enables). In other words, content-specific blogging on news sites is not performing as well as other content, perhaps because people are choosing to consume such content from titles that are blog-first (I’m one of those people; I subscribe to numerous blogs and keep up with the world primarily through blogs rather than traditional news outlets).

I feel that blogging is an inherently personal medium. Whilst its power as a means of communicating in near-real-time with an engaged readership (and thus the ability to strengthen brands) is certainly appealing to companies, blogging has been described as “the unedited voice of a person” (by one of the form’s pioneers, Dave Winer).

This post is an example of that. I had an idea, after reading Mathew Ingram’s post on GigaOm (one of my personal favourite tech blogs) about this very topic, to discuss, with my personal opinion, the current state of the blog. Thus, this piece is a sort of stream-of-consciousness, my thoughts arranged in bits and transferred to you through the magic of the Internet and WordPress.

As an “unedited voice”, blogs offer anyone the ability to share their view of the world with the wider audience of the entire Internet. In this manner, I think that blogging will move back to basics, back to its roots as a personal medium. The growth of blogging software like WordPress, and the ease of use of such software in setting up a personal website, coupled with the rise of social media and the App Ecosystem will enable more individuals to express themselves through their own personal homes on the web. Whilst the major publishing houses like the New York Times choose to return to editorial-focused journalism citing content quality as a primary reason, blogging will continue to be the casual, conversational beast that is always has been. And this is the perfect thing that a platform of a personal nature needs.

So no, the rumours of blogging’s imminent death have been greatly exaggerated. Blogging – at least in a personal capacity – will continue to remain an approachable medium for anyone wanting to share their ideas. It will continue to prove that words and ideas have the power to change the world, allowing thousands of people each day to write, clip, share and re-post thoughts and opinions, making the collective voice of the world that much richer with each press of “Publish.”

How long should a blog post be?

Blogging for about six years now, I’ve often asked myself: how long should each post be? And as such, you’ll probably notice that Pixelated Thinking has a wide spectrum of post lengths, from 2000+ word essays, to simple quotes less than 100 words. This probably answers my question – that I don’t exactly know what the perfect blog post length is.

But thinking over it, I’ve come to realise that, despite its rootedness in the fast-paced world of technology, blogging is fundamentally an art form, a means of writing and expressing one’s thoughts and ideas. And, as we’ve known from thousands of years of world literature, there is no fixed limit to how long a discourse should be. It can be as long as the 1.8 million word Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, or as short and lucid as Lao Tzu’s 81-verse Tao Te Ching. Both are incredibly powerful texts, presenting complex ideas and philosophies, yet they’re of two significantly different lengths. This in itself indicates how uncertain the idea of length is on a piece of writing.

In school, we’re taught to conform to word counts – 200, 500, 2500 words maximum. Anything over, and you’ll lose marks. Whilst this is a good framework for forcing students to get straight to the point and thus structure their pieces rigidly, it can sometimes be quite limiting. And so, the world of blogging, a world where there’s hardly any rules, becomes a virtual playground for us lovers of the written word. But it can also be a curse, bringing the argument straight back to the classroom framework: the freedom to write as much as you like can start to make your work tiresome to read.

The Internet age has definitely shortened our attention spans. Twitter’s 140 character limit is both a fun way of succinct expression, and a reconditioning tool to shorten our focus ability. And so I think that, in trying to answer this popular question of any blogger, one must look to what humans enjoy most: variety.

Writing isn’t about numbers, it’s about expressing yourself. So instead of worrying about how long a piece is, rather focus on the content, and on the best way of converting your thoughts into words. Doing so, be mindful of your audience, of their retention rate on your blog, and also of your content spectrum: by shaking things up with a few long-form pieces amongst an array of quick-burst thoughts, you’ll have a lively blog that can generate its own discourse.

Why I Choose WordPress for Blogging

I’ve been blogging for a long time now. One of the things I’m asked often by aspiring bloggers and website owners is “which platform should I choose?”

We’re certainly spoilt for choice today when it comes to starting a blog. There’s a multitude of platforms to choose from, and it can be quite daunting. So I’m going to attempt to tell you why I swear by WordPress for my blogging adventures.

1: Platform connectedness. WordPress takes care of optimising my blog for all devices – mobile and desktop. I can just focus on the content, and WordPress will handle the look of Pixelated Thinking  on iPad, iPhone, Android and the plethora of other web browsers out there. And it looks pretty good too.

2: Blog from anywhere. Whilst I do use Evernote to draft posts sometimes, there’s no denying that the native WordPress app for BlackBerry and iOS is excellent. It allows me to monitor site stats, reply to comments. Oh, and even write entire posts if the inspiration strikes me when I’m out and about. Like all other things WordPress, it looks beautiful too.

3: Themes. WordPress has some awesome themes. There’s a lot to choose from (which can lead to massive procrastination), and the themes look trés professional. They just convey the feel of a stable, content-rich blog. I find Blogger (Google’s answer to WordPress and the platform I started out with back in 2007) to be a bit less to my taste; they have, however, improved their design and functionality of blogs. But I’ll still stick to WordPress thanks.

Lastly, Akismet spam protection is one of the best features. It protects my blog from the bombardment of spam comments.

If you’re considering going out into the blogging world, I truly recommend giving WordPress a try. If it’s good enough for the professionals (GigaOM, TIME), then I’m sure it’ll be perfect for you.