The Man in Blue

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Joining the resistance

In my small corner of the digital world it feels like everyone is firing up their blog again. After years of lying dormant, /wp-login.php is getting a few visits and posts are being tapped out. (And – more importantly – being moved from “Draft” to “Published”).

With the rising tide of algorithmically-biased pabulum in our social channels, it almost feels like an act of resistance to be publishing on your own domain again. After years of getting fat and lazy off the convenience of tweeting, liking and medium-ing, it’s refreshing to be writing for yourself again. No comments, no length limits, no performance art. Just writing for yourself.

Not one to miss out jumping on a bandwagon, I thought it was high time that I unveiled a redesign that has been 14 years in the making. The Man in Blue has stood fast as a bastion of Web 2.0 aesthetics, and I’ve held longingly onto Doug’s original review of it like a washed-up football player. But the time has come for an evolution … and it’s extremely freeing, in more ways than one.

What originally started out as a style makeover has gradually become a more philosophical endeavour – an endeavour focused around content. I often forget it, but blogging has helped me in so many ways. It helped me find what I was good at. It helped me find a community. It helped me find success in all manner of things. Blogging has been kind to me, and I wanted to be kind back. So the design of the site has been entirely refocused around written content.

Before doing this there were two main hurdles.

For most of its life my site has been a thing of bespoke complexity: carved into digital bedrock with Perl CGI scripts; mystically preserved using flat text files; and requiring incantantions of fileserver permission changes before every post. It was truly painful to create anything. So I decided to update it all to WordPress. Tick one: slightly easier posting.

On the old site too, I had to create a custom image for every post, which often involved spending more time on illustrating than on writing. The decision to drop that image might seem like a small thing but it also sparked in me an understanding of what I really wanted to do: write. What I ultimately want this site to do is communicate, and the written content was what I really wanted to share. Tick two: focus on what matters.

So now that I know what I want to do with my site, and it’s amazingly simple to post, this has made me much more optimistic of my chances of keeping this important part of my world alive.

It’s well past the new year, so I feel safe setting a goal without jinxing it. So here it is: my goal for this year is to write 50 posts. That mightn’t sound like much – and they can take any form, long or short – but I think a post a week is something that I can actually achieve while still forcing me to stretch myself and improve my writing skills. It also encourages me to contribute at a more abstract level to an institution which I think needs help.

I often feel that the Internet is the crowning achievement of humankind’s technology, but one which can easily disappear into the pages of history. It is amazing that we have been given this mouthpiece that is both free in spirit and free in price. If you have any of the same sorts of feelings then I encourage you to dust off your blog, crack your knuckles, and get typing. Join the resistance.