Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

What makes a blog post a blog post?

Blaugust is a month-long event that takes place in August each year that focused on blogging and other serialized content. The goal is to stoke the fires of creativity and allow bloggers and other content creators to mingle in a shared community while pushing each other to post more regularly.

Most of my blog posts from the past 4 years in this blog are rather similar in form and function. Other than few exceptions, they are mostly around 1000 words each. They are written in conversational style and reflect on my personal opinions, experiences and desire to share knowledge.

The many faces of blog posts

I also read a ton of blogs. As of writing, I have 142 blogs that I follow in my main RSS feed and I have a couple of other feed lists (like the recent Hacker News list and the Blaugust 2023 list) that I follow on a secondary feed and pick ones I enjoy to my main list.

Many of those blogs are nothing like mine and I enjoy them a lot. There are short daily blogs that are more like individual notes of distinct things. There are more visual blogs. There are story-based blogs.

A blog post isn't really bound by many rules, if any. Or at least, the rules are really up to the person reading what they decide to count as blog posts and what kind of content they enjoy.

Participating in Blaugust and being exposed to a lot of different type of bloggers and their blogs, I've started considering what my perception of a blog post is.

My inner critic

Especially since I have this inner critic in my head that is pushing me to a certain mould and format. "What will your readers think if you do X?", it keeps nagging at my ear. One blog post every year is my Merry Christmas post. It completely breaks my format and is a reminder to myself that there are more important things than hitting my Wednesday quota. Yet, the inner critic keeps telling me I'm cheating when I publish those posts instead of real blog posts.

I even built a separate category called 🍿 Snacks for code snippets because I felt they weren't blog post-y enough. And I have a "secret" gaming blog because at some point I felt gaming content was way too different in style compared to my main blog that I didn't want to mix them. I have since written and published more gaming related content on this blog and will probably migrate those few gaming posts into this main feed as well.

Even now, with "post every day" challenge of Blaugust, I still find myself publishing the same type of content. Most of these are roughly 1000 words and fit the requirements of my inner critic. Which is bit of shame because lately I've been reading so many great blogs that are not bound by similar silly restrictions and are very much enjoyable.

I have been working towards growing my audience and readership (somehow, I'm nearing 50k monthly visitors) and consistency definitely helps there. Yet, I keep thinking if I'm too worried about things like that and limiting my creativity by not allowing myself post things. In my own blog. Where I'm the only gatekeeper.

Digital gardens instead of blogs?

Many of the people I follow have moved from writing a blog with timestamped chronological posts into building a digital garden that takes more wiki-style approach of content pieces that get updated and written a bit here and bit there and are ever-growing and updating.

A great example of this is Ruksi's notes. It's the one that I always link to people who feel like writing long-form blog posts feels too much but who would like to start documenting their learnings and experiences into their website. (He also has a few paragraphs about blogging!)

I think this can be a great way to get started with writing and building a body of work on your website that will be helpful to you and others in the world. Whenever you run into something new you learned or something you helped someone else do, write it down and share it. In the wide world, there's always someone who's pondering the same things.

Minimum Blog Feed Criteria

I started really thinking about this topic as I ran into Lou Franco's post Minimum Blog Feed Criteria around the same time I was also filtering the Hacker News feed list and having run into a lot of content that I wasn't interested having in my blog feed.

Lou has his criteria as:

Here’s my list of things your feed should have:

A title. For some reason, there are a bunch of untitled feeds. The <link> tag has a title attribute, and I’m pretty sure that if you leave it blank, most readers will pick up the site’s <title> tag.

The full post. I don’t know if it’s intentional or just a default of some blog software. If you have a feed, I recommend putting the full post in it.

A recentish post. I know it’s hard to keep a blog  up-to-date, but if you are going to add your site to a list, go put up a new post if your latest is very old. Even if it’s just a short intro  and a few links to your best posts.

Not too many posts. I possibly post too much, but  there were a few blogs with several posts each day. They were short posts, but I still found that they dominated my unread list too much, so  I ended up deleting them.

It's quite similar to mine. The title is less important for me as I often rename it in my feed anyway to remember who's blog I'm reading and making it easier to find a specific blog. I don't remember blog names but I do remember people behind the blogs.

I also like having full blog posts in my feed. If the post is interesting enough, I'll go read it on the blog but I'm more likely to not. On my main reading device iPad I use lire that fetches the full post regardless so this has been a lesser issue for me lately.

Having a recent post doesn't matter to me as that's why I love RSS. You can post once a year and with RSS I'll get it. No need to appease The Algorithm with constant blogging, the RSS is equally fair to all blogs.

Finally, the question of how often to post. If there's a blog that posts multiple times a day and the content is closer to what I'd expect in social media, I'm likely to remove it from the feed to make sure it doesn't overwhelm the feed. But if there's good daily content, I'm all in.

I heavily curate my feed. I'm very eager to add new blogs if I run into a blog post that is interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing what they write in the future but I'm also rather eager to delete feeds if I notice there's been weeks or months where I haven't opened a single post from a feed.


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