Rethinking My Blog

  July 13 2010

I've been writing here for over seven and a half years, during which I've written almost 1,100 posts. I've made a few changes recently to my site based on trends I've noticed, and thought this might be worth discussing in more depth.

Technical Platforms

When I first started writing, the blog was hosted on dotnetweblogs.com, where Scott started to host what eventually became .Text. That site was eventually subsumed by weblogs.asp.net, and the underlying platform was eventually migrated to Community Server.

At some point, I decided that it was important to move this content to a domain I controlled. I ended up running Community Server on slashstar.com - a domain that had some significance because /* is both a comment in many C-based languages and in XPath means "everything in context". (Remember, this was when XML/XSLT/XPath was taking off). My plan was to start a site where myself and a series of other bloggers (like in the DotNetWeblogs days) would write about a series of topics, and categories were organized and discoverable by sub-domain.

That vision never quite panned out and as a result decided to move to my own personal domain. Shortly after this transition, I migrated to BlogEngine.NET, which I think fit my needs a lot better than Community Server. That said, I've recently run into a number of limitations with their object model, and there are a number of features that I have no need for such as themes, widgets and other features.

Content

My posts have definitely slowed down a lot over the years - but this was especially true after I joined Twitter in Feb 2007.  Twitter is the perfect outlet for some kinds of short-form and/or time-sensitive topics, which has two implications: 1) I've posted fewer, but longer, posts since I joined Twitter, and 2) there's a lot of stuff from the 4 years prior to Twitter that were probably better suited for Twitter. In many ways, I think this temporal content has diluted the higher quality (or, at least, longer) stuff I've written over the years.

Going forward

As a result of these things, I've decided to refocus what this site will be and how I'm going to organize my content.

 

Replacing BlogEngine.NET with custom ASP.NET MVC. I've resisted the urge to reinvent the wheel by writing my own blog software to this point, but I finally kind of hit the wall with having complete control of my content. MVC routing made this process a lot easier, so I decided to take the plunge.

I now have much more control over the site structure and can better integrate my content throughout the site, while at the same time leveraging the existing BlogEngine.NET admin and Metablog API until the transition is complete. (I may eventually release this as Open Source, though I'm not sure it will necessarily be full-featured enough for a standalone product or whether I even want to bother rewriting the admin pages). 

I've also taken the opportunity to try to make the content more readable - eliminating side bars and advertisements (which didn't make any money anyway). If there was a Readability JQuery plug-in, I would use it - but in general I tried to adopt some of the principles of Readability and Instapaper.

 

Discovering content.  There's a lot of buried content on this site because I haven't done a good job (beyond the normal "blog" things) to surface that content. You may notice the most popular / most recent lists here, but I'm brainstorming some more interesting ways to promote that content. I am working on simplifying the category structure to make the posts easier to discover.  Finally, I'm working on classifying content (particularly older posts) as "Twitter material", HOWTO or as a "timeless" post, and will promote these posts accordingly. 

 

Integrating "content" produced elsewhere. The biggest problem I have right now is that I "do" a lot of things on other sites - tagging on Delicious, posting to Twitter, sharing or liking on Google Reader - and that's not reflected here. I hope to integrate some of this activity to bring this sharing to a single place, and just generally reflect my recent activity.

Writing. Perhaps most importantly, I want to write more regularly. My goal is to focus on producing one high-quality, longer-form article per month - I hope that having a more fixed schedule will help.


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