Bookmarked 20 Years of Blogging: What I’ve Learned by Anil Dash

This week marks the 20th anniversary of this blog. I thought the best way to observe the milestone, and to try to pass along some of the benefits I’ve gained from keeping a presence online all these years, would be to share some of the most important things I’ve learned since I started this site.

Anil Dash

Anil Dash reflects on two decades of blogging.

Some quotes that resonate:

I also do still strongly believe that someone who really has a strong point of view, and substantive insights into their area of interest, can have huge impact just by consistently blogging about that topic. It’s not currently the fashionable way to participate in social media, but the opportunity is still wide open.

Yes, maintaining a sustained online identity and presence is an opportunity, as it provides agency. The open web is an open invitation to do so, but it takes time to blog. Time that will not immediately result in dopamine triggering likes and retweets, so you will need to find the motivation for keeping up blogging elsewhere, likely within yourself. Even if you don’t have ‘substantive insights’ in your areas of interest but still consistently blog, there will be impact. I once had a client who hired me after reading my blog archives and realising from its tone and content I would bring the right attitude and outlook to the project. Over time any blog is a body of work.

If your website’s full of assholes, it’s your fault.

Platforms have always maintained they are just platforms, and not responsible for its content. That argument has been severely eroded by the platforms itself, because their adtech business models depend on engagement, and so they introduced addictive design patterns and algorithms that decide what you see, based on likelihood of sparking engagement (usually outrage, as it works so well). A platform that decides what you see in order to sell more ads, makes conscious editorial decisions, and is no longer a platform. Roads and their maintainers generally aren’t responsible for the conduct of drivers, but in this case the roads over time have been deliberately increasingly designed to make you speed, reward repeat offenders by reserving the fast lane for them, and road maintainers get paid by car repair shops based on a metric of a steady rise in car crashes so road rage gets encouraged to raise revenue. It’s why federation of very distributed nodes is important to me, it strongly reduces amplification of the things that we’ve come to loathe on the platforms. That e.g. Gab, having been deplatformed, moved to federated servers is a good thing. Now anyone can round around it as damage, and its content doesn’t get the amplification and recognition by being on general platforms, it otherwise would. I am the only one on my website. I am the only one on my Mastodon server. At that level moderation is extremely easy, while it doesn’t reduce my interactions in any way.

I’m not someone who thinks there was a “good old days”; social media has always been too exclusionary, and too dependent on systems and infrastructures that replicate the injustices of society as a whole. It is possible, though, to make new systems that are a little more equitable, and I still haven’t given up on that hope at all.

Me neither, there’s huge potential for increasing agency, especially for groups in specific contexts and around specific issues. A networked agency emerging from lowering technology and process thresholds. It means taking ourselves as the starting point, not the platform or its business model.

Bonus pic: my friend Paolo blogging, 13 years ago in June 2006.

image by Paolo Valdemarin, license CC BY-NC-ND

Blogging usually doesn’t involve a pipe, sitting outside, prosecco, or a sea view from the Ligurian coast. Blogging is totally mundane, this the exception. It might be a good addictive design pattern for blogging though 😉

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