'Web 3.0' is boring and bland, a gentrified hell-state that somehow manages to promote extremists while also removing personal expression. Gone are the epic 1,000 word posts about the time you ate a burger, in their place, a boring and ephemeral blurb on twitter or facebook that will somehow come back to haunt you, but also one that none of your friends will notice.
The early 2000s/Web 1.5 Era
The best time to be jacked in and engaged was the Web 1.5 era, when corporate dorks still hadn't figured out how to make a closed garden, and when communities were digital but close-knit. A time when Web Rings and Blog Rolls were a thing, ICQ, IRQ, AOL where the communication tools of choice, and your mom hadn't figured out how to log in.
Blogs had existed from before the web - as MUD diary entries, regular read-only mailing lists, and BBS posts, but the arrival of The Web (and the invention of Perl) made the first modern blogs possible.
Blogs consisted of a homepage or index that listed posts and contained summaries. Each blog post would contain content and often included a comment section below (powered by a Perl server-side script). It was a pretty cool idea that took some tech savvy to get up and running on your own, but was satisfying to create. By the late 90s, several large free blog hosts competed for users (and readers!) by offering choices of templates/freeball, comments/closed, automated webring/curated blog roll, and some hosts even offered revenue splitting.
Visiting a new blog was an interesting experience. Some were very typical 90s sites with garish color schemes and auto-playing music. Others were spartan. But they were very personal – sometimes a person's hobby, a diary, or even early 'citizen journalism'.
Blog posts were usually quite longform and engaging, inviting the readers to pause and reflect before jumping to the guest book, forum thread, or comment section to leave feedback. It was, in many ways, the antithesis of our modern blurb-centric scrolltastic world. Before Twitter rolled in and made us anxious to check our notification count, Blog posts were asynchronous, but far less ephemeral.
Blog and forum culture were very much inextricable by 2002; you would jump online to check the latest posts on a forum, zoom over to check Slashdot and bOINGbOING, then head on over to Blogger.com or LiveJournal to post your entries and respond to someone's very long and very bad take.
And some bloggers had clout. Josh Marshall – the creator of TalkingPointsMemo – managed to bring down a US Senator by posting the senator's approval of racists and the senator's own racist remarks. Being referenced by a top-tier blog would result in a flood of traffic that often crashed servers (aka 'The Slashdot Effect').
Your Favorite Sites Are Blogs
Before Herb Spanfeller killed Splinter, I would check it on a daily basis. Mostly, it was to read up on the latest hellish thing going on in the world – but it was also to relax and enjoy seeing my favorite writers dunk. From time to time, Splinter writers would do long features or post special investigations; Hamilton Nolan covered the prison, justice, and union beat. Anna Merlan had a knack for digging into the weird, cultish, and criminal conspiracy. Featured investigations and running commentary were the main draw of the site... but the main entertainment was as always, provided by the commentariat.
If you visit a news site – say, a tech news site – you're actually visiting a blog. Blogs are characterized by: having an index of summarized content, separate pages of content ('articles' or 'posts'), and interaction with the audience. Blogs also tend to be very generous about linking to outside content, and are often written in response to other sites' posts or current events.
On the other hand, Facebook and Twitter do not count as blogs – they present no original content, and only the thinnest veneer of peer-to-peer interaction and highly limited self-expression and discoverability. Twitter and Facebook posts are short, drift away, and are forgotten. Blogs are a creators' way to express their feelings and shape the world – whereas social media sites shape the posters' worlds through stimuli ('notification addiction') and social media preys on our fear of death and our insignificant role in the world around us, giving us the illusion of importance and creation, but ultimately leaving us with nothing of value.
Blogging has become a revolutionary act; blogs are both the medium and the message. In a time where corporate control over the offline and online world has grown stronger and where self-expression has become more and more limited thanks to terrible design (and everything not immediately monetizable being optimized away), the act of creating a blog is a performance of self-expression from the stringing of words to the customization of how the words are presented.
It's hard to create meaningful art and change when the means of creating art are controlled by outside entities disinterested in the human experiment. Limitations are not the progenitor of creativity; witness the bland boring-ass content on Medium.com, where every single post is indistingushable and boring, where the creator doesn't matter, and where eventual profit will wind up in the hands of the medium controller, not the authors.
This is a lesson that Nick Denton, former owner of the Gawker network, learned far too late. What made the web amazing was self-expression and diversity of content (and medium). Denton's obsession with 'every post is a blog' resulted in him obsessively building a bland and barely functional platform, without bothering to ask what the purpose of the platform was, what the product was, and who the audience was. The house that Nick built still stands – but now the house is controlled by a Herb, and the artists living inside of it are slowly being expelled one by one.
The joke will ultimately be on Herb. People don't visit blogs to read sports scores. They read blogs to connect to the authors and feel alive.
Splinter and Deadspin were good blogs. (and Deadspin – a very profitable one)
Launching our blog – Squinter Media
It isn't hard to start a blog – the barriers to entry for a blog are lower than that of a podcast. Personal blogs can be easily spun up, if all you want to do is just post and don't mind digital sharecropping. For that you can sign up at Google's Blogger.com, Wordpress.com, Medium.com (no customization allowed), or any of the LiveJournal forks like Dreamwidth.org or DeadJournal.
But it's also possible to self-host and reap the rewards of your labor yourself. I'm using the You a little loosely; pretty much all blogging content management software is designed with group blogs in mind – so you should definitely staff the content mines with your friends.
Squinter Media launched in the hours after Herb Spanfeller – the coward – murdered Deadspin.com, a very good site.
When we set Squinter Media up, we chose to host on a rented machine from OVH and originally the software we used to build the site was Discourse. It turns out that while Discourse is an amazing piece of modern forum software, it's about 300x slower to serve each individual visitor and doesn't scale as well as what now powers SquinterMedia.com – Ghost.
If we had to launch again, we would be hosting on DigitalOcean. DigitalOcean is really easy to get started on and has a $100 credit just for creating an account by using a referral link, which is wild. (Squinter's operating costs right now are $5/mo – so we would be good for 20 months!)
Launching a blog is pretty easy, really. Hooking it up to a domain is also easy, and domains are dirt cheap these days. (1and1 offers $1/1st yr domains with $7/yr renewals, and free email).
Squinter Media is essentially just two people, writing words, and displaying them for the entire world to see. (I write the content and take some shifts running the brand twitter.) It's a side thing for us, a way to express ourselves and maybe eventually get hired somewhere to make some money.
We were really really mad that Jim Spanfeller, a noted herb, was bullying our favorite writers. We were pissed when he shuttered Splinter.com. When he murdered Deadspin.com, we weren't going to take it any more.
(this is actually the second site we had a hand in creating – the first was a semi-succesful forum created when bOINGbOING editor in chief Jason 'The Owl' Heisberger tried to shutter the bOINGbOING comment section.)
In a really dramatic 30+ hours of sleepless activity, we joined the commentariat uprising, writing hundreds of anti-Herbfeller posts across the Zombie Gawker sites and rallying commenters. By the 30th hour, there were over 3,000 commenters who joined the survivor's massive chat server. By hour 35, SquinterMedia.com was up, and our sister site DeadSplinter.com launched a few hours later. (go say hi, they're great!). Herbfeller threatened to disable commenting altogether on Zombie Gawker sites and shut down community blogs hosted on Zombie Gawker.
(Herbfeller actually did, killing off Observation Deck, Sidespin, and the Jalopnik community blog, the spiteful, cantankerous git.)
We're amazed and grateful to have been part of the Commentariat Uprising, and for bringing our bad takes to so many of you. I never expected the outpouring of feedback and kindness – both from The Commentariat and from ex-G/O staff. We haven't even yet really begun to build a brand or site voice, which lends us the freedom to write silly food pieces and do serious political analysis. Blogging every day taught me discipline and even higher respect for the Content Miners and Actual Writers who do this professionally.
Thank you for believing in us.
Come, join us.
Don't let your dreams be dreams.
Launch your own blog.
The Herbs of the world can only destroy what they can control. Blogging is a revolutionary concept – when the creators own the blogs, they own the means of production. And those who control the means of production... get the goods.
Don't leave the future of writing in the hands of Herb Spanfeller or the beancounters at some content mill.
Seize the means of production.
Seize the memes of production. (before I cancel said meme).
Most importantly: toss a coin to your writers. they can have a little, as a treat. Professional writing is a soul-destroying experience, and being creative in an expensive city is even worse. The creators who write your favorite pieces often don't have enough cash to live – G/O Media staff average TWO roommates even though they "made it". The Herb that killed Deadspin.com, by comparison, has a multi-million dollar brownstone to himself.
anyway, help us achieve a better google rating by reading some of our recent pieces. here's my hand-picked favorites: