Have I lost my blogging mojo?

Yes, I have.

I am not sure why. Last year I was fairly regularly averaging two posts per day, but this year I’ve sometimes struggled just to get an average of one per day, or to just post at all on some days.

I wonder what has changed, but have no real answers. I don’t think it’s anything like “long covid” or associated brain fog, because it would have kicked in sooner, I think. Or maybe not.

I can explain the lack of a post for yesterday, though: I am experiencing either a nasty seasonal allergy reaction, or have some kind of cold (I lean toward allergies, given the symptoms, time of year and the fact that my partner, who typically brings germs home from the university, remains healthy). I have taken allergy relief pills to help reduce symptoms and as I type this, I feel better than when I first got up. But that only explains yesterday.

Maybe I am seeing the world slightly differently now. The last year has kind of soured me on people in general, and institutions and, well, a lot of things. I seek solace in simple things now. I long to be in places that are quiet, where I can be alone, and not hear the drone of cars, or the chatter of others. I am worn down by the ever-present displays of selfishness and stupidity. It feels like it is all around me.

Whoa, this is deep ‘n depressing. Normally I would end a post like this in a somewhat glib manner, by posting an animated GIF of a cat being silly.

And you know what? That’s exactly what I’m going to do! With one of the classics.

Also, it’s sunny today, which is nice and something of a change for this soggy, damp spring of ours. The weather might be a factor, too.

Anyway, cat:

I need a fancy new logo

With the site redesign mostly complete, I think I need a new logo, something that isn’t just literally the name of the site. Yes, I know it’s clean and efficient, but it’s also sterile and blah.

I still want something sleek and uncluttered. I will ponder.

When I tinkered around in Canva, I ended up with this:

It both does and doesn’t speak to me. It’s also full of hidden meaning that no one else would ever figure out.

But the actual logo will probably not feature a jar of pickles.

Mah site is fixed (somewhat)

After tending to some caching devilry, I seem to have gotten my site back up and mostly functional. It is still in flux, but for now the changes are such:

  • No more colour! Well, very little colour, but it’s mostly a sea of light gray. This will get tweaked.
  • The broad layout of content/sidebar remains. This, too, will get tweaked further.
  • While the layout is pretty much the same, the mono-colour means all the fancy rounded edges have been obliterated. I kind of miss them. I will ponder.
  • Archives and Categories have been demoted and Recent Posts removed.
  • Font Resizer is gone, as are the thumbnails for various links.
  • The links are now in a tidy little list, using Font Awesome icons with a li’l bit of colour (except for the Mastodon elephant, because there’s no non-political FA icon that is not political, and I couldn’t get the FA Mastodon logo to render for reasons).
  • Typography is unchanged (for now).
  • The logo has been made bigger and centred (and given a bit more space between it and the content).

With everything at least working, I will spend some time contemplating what I like and what I will change before diving in and probably wrecking everything again. Excelsior!

Mah site is broke

I did a silly thing last night. I decided to revamp the site, spontaneously, into something much more stripped down and streamlined. I didn’t intend to finish it the same night, but I’d get a lot of the planks in place, so to speak.

While I did this, my internet connection went down, because there are evil gnomes at Telus who know the worst time to make my connection fail.

Anyway, the main change was moving from content/sidebar to sidebar/content–simply switching the sidebar to the other side, and re-organizing the content in it. I also switched to a more muted colour scheme.

Everything looked pretty good. I hit Publish and…every widget in the new sidebar disappeared. I rebuilt it and in the preview it looked good. I hit Publish and again, all widgets gone.

The right sidebar seemed OK, but as soon as I touched it, the curse spread to it, but not as fully–for some reason the last widget was retained, and all others wiped.

My database is quite old–it dates back to 2005, when I started the blog, and I’ve already covered how it won’t properly display all emoji because of some old-timey character set issues. So I’m thinking that perhaps the outage may have corrupted a janky database into something even jankier. But I do not know for certain. I am a humble word-spewer and doodler, not a web developer.

I am pondering now. I’ve added a few things to the right sidebar again, and these few things seem to be sticking for the moment. We’ll see how it goes.

I am sad. 🙁

But I also have renewed my hatred of WordPress. >:( (actual emoji for being angry will not display)

An update on this interesting situation soon™.

5,000 posts

Celebrating a milestone with an important-looking title

On February 2, 2005 I wrote my first post here on creolened.com:

I was the last one to get bell bottom jeans in grade 5 and now I’m the last person on the Internet to have a blog.

Me, back when I had hair

Today, April 22, 2024, I am writing this, my 5,000th post, just in time for blogging to become a bit of a fad again.

5,000 posts seems like a lot. It is a lot, I suppose. It’s less impressive when you spread it out over the 19 years this blog has been around (263 per year). But it’s still a decent-sized number. If someone gave me $5,000 it would make my socks roll up and down a bit. If someone put 5,000 marbles in my bed, it would be very annoying to deal with. If the sea level rose 5,000 feet, I would be typing this on a boat and probably living in some real-life version of Waterworld.

You get the idea. 5,000 is a good number.

A single Fun Fact

Fun fact: In 2005 I wrote seven posts, in 2006 I wrote eight. My average has improved since then (this is post #159 for 2024).

I’m not going to offer words of wisdom or reflect on what the blog has meant to me, or anything like that. It’s an outlet for me. I like writing. I often have inane thoughts. A blog is a perfect place to put these thoughts down, because if you aren’t sharing your inane thoughts with the world, what are you going to do with them? Tell your cat? I don’t even have a cat any more (I did in 2005).

I will apologize for keeping the blog mired in design hell for so long. I really ought to spiff it up, slim it down, or something.

The inevitable list

What I will do, instead, is offer a list, because I like lists:

  • I recommend taking a look at the page Tags (all of them). I abuse the WordPress tags function horribly, which is why my blog has hundreds of them, but some of the weirder ones can yield entertaining and/or amusing, but also sometimes horrifying results.
  • I apologize for all the running posts. They’re not very interesting, except to me. But I did start adding pretty photos to them, at least.
  • The Creative category is where you’ll find my drawings and such. Some of them are not bad.
  • Writing Prompts is where I either write based on a prompt, or create my own lists of prompts (as established, I like lists). My prompts are almost exclusively absurd.
  • Check out my horrible attempt to take swimming lessons from 2009:
  • My favourite movie review: Movie review: Prometheus (I did not like it)
  • Possibly my favourite book review, or at least the longest: Book review: Abandon (I kind of liked it, but also hated it)
  • A creepy story based on a prompt, told in large part through text messages: 1,000 creative writing prompts: 7 of 1,000
  • My favourite cat GIF:

Moving from WordPress, Part 4

This will be a quick one, because it’s just me explaining why it’s been a while since I had an update. Mainly, I have been preoccupied with other more pressing matters and this has taken time away from my search. I’m also increasingly skeptical that any alternative will give me what I want, despite my issues with WordPress, which means I might just stay with WordPress. But we’ll see.

I’ll have a more detailed report in Part 5, in which I will have actually tested write.as, as promised earlier.

Moving from WordPress, Part 3

I am in a quandary. I thought that researching the supposed finalists would clarify things, but I feel I am no closer now to making a decision.

I looked at what I felt were the two best choices–write.as and blogtastic. They have many broad similarities, not the least of which is an apparent fear of capitalization (or love for e.e. cummings). blogtastic has an advantage in price–at least until April 1, 2024, when their pricing increases.

I was leaning toward blogtastic, partly due to that price advantage, but then I checked its showcase page. And…it’s not good. It’s filled with blogs that have clearly been abandoned, or only ever had a few posts. Only one has a post from 2024. All of them have slow-loading images that draw onto the screen like a JPEG on a Pentium in 1998. blogtastic also features testimonials elsewhere on their site. One writer spoke highly of blogtastic. I click on the link to his site–and it’s very fast! Images load instantly. It’s also running on Ghost. Hmm.

Meanwhile, write.as doesn’t show many examples at all. One is in Japanese, and it looks…OK? It’s hard to get a handle on how sites typically look. To be fair, Matt Baer, who created write.as, does have a link to his own personal blog, and it looks perfectly fine. write.as also lets you have three blogs for its price, which is a nice bonus. The editor is clean, but also very spartan. Maybe a little too spartan. blogtastic leans a little more heavily on what I’d call extra features, like footnotes and things. I love that kind of stuff.

After looking over both, I came away completely unsure on whether either would meet my needs.

Here’s a look at pricing, with Ghost thrown into the mix, as it and blogtastic will be pretty close after blogtastic’s price increase. All prices are per year.

  • Ghost: $108 ($9 per month)
  • write.as: $72 ($6 per month)
  • blogtastic: $49 ($4.08 per month). This changes to $99 if you purchase after April 1st ($8.25 per month)

All three let you do a limited-time trial, so you can test drive each. Since I have no idea how any of these will actually feel in practice, I’m going to do that next.

Part 4 will be my test run on write.as.

Moving off of WordPress, Part 2

In Part 2, I offer some takes on platforms I skipped, summarize my experiences with ones I’ve tested, and offer some alternatives to blogging altogether.

Not for me, but still good

Here are a few sites I skipped because they focus on text over images, though some do support images.

  • Scribbles. This one is still in early access, but the editor is very nice. There are no real themes to speak of, but the whole thing is well-designed and fast. If you just want text, this is a very good choice.
  • Bear (not to be confused with the note-taking app). Comes with some themes, supports markdown and images (as a paid option), but is extremely minimalist. It’s free for basic features and $5 per month/$48 per year for paid (paid covers things that are server-intensive).
  • omg.lol. This is a weird grab bag of stuff for a mere $20 per year. They now include a blog option which is currently in beta, uses markdown, and is the most “to the metal” of the three listed here.

Sites I’ve tried so far

  • Scribbles: If the image support was a little more refined, I might stick with it. I don’t knock it for this, though, it’s not their focus.
  • Bear: Fast and light, but again, image support is not quite there for my needs.
  • Pika: This was on my short list from Part 1 and…it’s so close. Images are constrained to the theme, so you have to right-click and “open image in new tab” to see them full-size. I can understand why it’s set up this way, but it’s just not right for me.

Alternate solutions to blogging platforms

Some of these may seem pretty obvious, I include them, anyway.

  • A journaling or diary app.
    • Pros: Completely offline, entries could be entire books if you are very silly and wordy
    • Cons: It’s for you and you alone, unless you publish your collected writings at a later date. This is also a pro to some people.
  • A paper journal. The pros and cons are the same as the electronic version, with the bonus of never needing electricity or battery power to write, just enough natural light and your favourite pen/pencil/crayon.
  • A note-taking app like Obsidian, Bear or one of the other billion options.
    • Pros: Lightweight, local, fast.
    • Cons: That sharing thing again. But wait! See the next bullet item…
  • A writing app that also lets you publish to the web. Some of these include Ulysses, Mars Edit and iA Writer (the Mac in particular has a lot of options).
    • Pros: An excellent writing environment, and they allow you to share your posts relatively easily.
    • Cons: You still need a site to share to. Also, while the writing experience is often quite nice, once you move beyond that with photos and heavier formatting, the process tends to start breaking down a bit.
  • Dictating into a voice-recording app or voice recorder device.
    • Pro: It’s as easy as just opening your mouth and talking.
    • Cons: Cleaning up the dictation later could prove clunky or messy. You have to decide where to put the transcripts, unless you just want an audio version of your life (which might be interesting!)

For Part 3, I will be doing more research and narrowing down my choices a bit more.

Here is another cat GIF. The cat is industriously working away on its blog, All the Mews Fit to Print.

Moving off of WordPress, Part 1

Back in January I wrote that I was contemplating moving off of WordPress for various reasons.

Back then, I posted four possible options:

  • Keep using WordPress and just shut up about it. It works, right?
  • Actually switch to a WordPress alternative.
  • Stop blogging altogether.
  • Post my cat pictures on Facebook for free (after getting a cat).

I have narrowed down these options to one (and a half):

  • Actually switch to a WordPress alternative.
    • Move some of my bloggy stuff to an offline journal (probably the running/exercise posts)

The next question is: Which WordPress alternative? Because it turns out there are a lot of options. Like, a lot. Oodles. Too many.

But since my needs are specific and known, I can winnow down the list. If your needs are like mine, this might be useful for you, too. If not, there is an animated GIF of a cat at the end of this post.

What I want

My needs (also in the linked post above, but paraphrased here):

  • Blog posts, both long and short.
  • Photos, along with galleries to keep them organized.
  • A general means of blog organization, like categories or tags.
  • An easy-to-use editor that makes me feel warm and fuzzy and want to share with the world.

Pretty basic stuff, really. If I eliminated photos (I will not do this, but let’s pretend), my choices would be nigh-infinite. I could go for one of many super-minimalist blogging sites. But having no photos would also mean no drawings, which are like photos I put together with my hands and brain instead of a camera. This is a dealbreaker. I don’t want to revive my old Flickr account.

That clears out the wide array of minimalist, text-only sites. What’s left? Still oodles!

What I’ve found

Important note: I am omitting blogs that lean into more technical, nerdy skills to set up or maintain, so there's nothing here that installs from a command line or runs from a folder or requires scripting, etc. These follow the flow of:

Write a post  Click a button  Your thoughts are on the internet

Here’s an incomplete list:

And a quick summary of them, with some emphasis on what I’m looking for:

Ghost

This is probably the most WordPress-like, and it takes the most direct aim at WordPress and its features, claiming to be better/faster and, in some cases, cheaper.

The biggest con is that it’s $9 U.S. per month minimum1All prices listed here are in U.S. dollars. This is a lot of money to record my inane thoughts that could just as easily be typed into Notepad for free. You can also self-host Ghost, which is cheaper, but not exactly a simple process.

Ghost does have another notable pro, though–it can import from WordPress, so the nearly 4,000 inane posts I’ve made here could be carried over.

Micro.blog

This is reasonably priced at $5 a month, but has an emphasis on community (not a bad thing if you’re looking for that) and while longer pieces are possible, the focus is more on short, quick posts.

write.as

There’s a free plan, with some reasonable limits, so you can try before you buy (note: as of this post, the free plan is listed as “Closed for now”), and it’s $6 per month after if you pay annually. It supports not just photos, but albums. It has a blog community and supports newsletters, which suggests it has started moving away from its personal blog roots.

Pika

Pika has a free plan that is essentially a trial–you can make 50 posts, and then you’re done. So if you only ever have 50 things to say, you don’t have to pay! It’s otherwise $6 a month. It emphasizes a great writing experience, has some simple themes, and supports images. It’s also really new, as it just launched at the end of January 2024.

Blogtastic

With a name like Blogtastic, you would expect this to be a good blogging platform. It has multiple plans, including Starter for $20 and Expert for $50. Prices are going up on April 1st, though (no foolin’), with new names like Hobby for $50 and Startup for $100. I don’t think the old $20 and new $50 plans match up, though their chart doesn’t make it especially clear.

Anyway, this platform seems to offer everything and has been running for about three years, so it’s still relatively new. It feels like a Ghost competitor and, indeed, they compare themselves directly to Ghost, stating that they are more focused on writing and less on “secondary” things. They claim their gallery management is “robust”!

Posthaven

There’s a $5 per month Founder Plan (good for 10 blogs) and–that’s it! No other options. It keeps things simple. Posthaven bills itself, somewhat weirdly, as “the blogging platform designed to outlive us.” I mean, OK, but I’m not sure if I care much about my blog a hundred years after I’ve departed the Earth for parts unknown.

A major caveat for me is image sizes seem to be limited due to their theming. They mention 800 pixels max, which is tiny and probably a dealbreaker.

Having gone through these, the ones I feel can be eliminated are:

  • Ghost (too expensive)
  • Micro.blog (cheap, but a different emphasis than what I’m looking for)
  • Posthaven (great, until you get to the tiny images)

This leaves Pika, write.as and Blogtastic. Currently, only one offers a free trial of sorts, so I’ll give Pika a test-run and do more research on write.as and Blogtastic.

Coming up in Part 2:

  • Some alternatives I rejected, but are still pretty good
  • Alternate solutions through non-blogging software
  • Probably another cat GIF

Here is the promised cat GIF for this post:

Jetpack? More like nopack! (Yeah, it needs work)

Today, I deactivated (and will later remove) the Jetpack plugin from my site. This is a plugin that does all kinds of things–it dances, it sings, it pushes SEO hard and wants you to sign up to a lot of bonus services for a low, low monthly price, so you can become rich off your blog content-rich site. It’s made by the company that owns WordPress, Automattic (the two t’s are intentional) and let’s just say they have been making the news recently for all the wrong reasons.

And it’s all because of our good friend, AI (we really need a better term, because there’s no real intelligence behind all this LLM1Large Language Model, another abbreviation I learned in the past year junk out there. Maybe we should call it Al, instead, like the person’s name. Blame everything on Al!) There are a lot of sources I could cite, so let’s choose 404 Media for now (and apologies, they require an email address/account to view their stories to prevent–oh so appropriately–AI firms from slurping up all their content):

A WordPress ‘Firehose’ Allows AI Companies to Buy Access to a Million Posts a Day

Now, the story above has been updated to include a statement from Automattic, but like almost all statements from the company over the past week, it sounds kind of weaselly:

Automattic edited its original “protecting user choice” statement this week to say it will exclude Jetpack from its deals with “select AI companies.”

From the 404 Media story

This could mean Jetpack is not affected, or it could mean that Jetpack is only being excluded for some, but not all companies. I would not be surprised if Automattic crafted the phrasing to be deliberately ambiguous.

Remember when the web was all animated GIFs and cheesy midi files? I’m not saying I’m hankering again for that experience precisely, but I do miss the days before the web was all about control, commerce and “engagement.” Sometimes it feels like the best thing to do would be to take my blog and all of its 4,933 (!) posts offline and just keep it in a journal I could revisit on my own, in private. I don’t mean a paper journal, of course. I’m not crazy. But something fully offline, where I don’t have to think about security patches or a host changing the rules on me, or escalating costs, or why is it such a chore to post images in a gallery, anyway?

Hmm. Hmm, I say.

This blog hatched 19 years ago today (February 2, 2005)

woman using smartphone and laptop
It’s a blog, see? Photo by Plann on Pexels.com

Yes, I have been rambling on, making lists and dissing Apple on this blog for 19 years. My blog can now legally drink in BC.

Here’s the original post in image form:

You can see the actual post here: Bloggity blog blog

As a first post, it’s not exactly riveting. I’m still using WordPress, though.

Some fun facts from 2005:

  • Twitter did not exist (just like today)
  • Facebook did not exist1Actually, it did, it launched in 2004, but it didn’t open up to the general public until 2006
  • Instagram did not exist
  • Spotify did not exist
  • Social media did exist, but it was stuff like Friendster and Myspace
  • YouTube launched
  • Steve Jobs still existed, but we were still two years away from the iPhone
  • Donald Trump being president was still just a joke on The Simpsons, a cruel, cruel joke
  • People were using Windows XP because it was actually current
  • The most popular song of 2005 was Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together”, which I have no recollection of
  • The top movie was Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • An actual comedy was in the top 10. Like, a movie you see in theatres (Wedding Crashers, at #6)

For the 20th anniversary, I will get my blog a cake and then eat all of it.