The Dent

"We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?" - Steve Jobs

More Than Just A Blogging Platform

I tried Micro.Blog a year or so ago, but at the time I just couldn’t get it to stick. I loved the idea from the get go, but I found that, by default, it wasn’t ideal at either of the things it was trying to be.

I had initially thought that it wouldn’t work as a blogging platform, because any content you share there that isn’t a blog post would also appear on your main page. I also felt that it was a bit pointless as a Twitter replacement, given the relatively small community behind it. Fast forward twelve months, however, and I’ve had a complete 180.

As I mentioned previously, I liked the idea of Micro.blog more than the implementation, at least that’s what I thought. After getting frustrated with Twitter one too many times, I popped back over to Micro.blog to check it out again and signed up for a new account. I started a Wordpress.com based blog about 10 months ago, which was going reasonably well and I had not intended to replace it, but whilst digging around into Micro.blog things started coming together.

The Micro.blog team recently added a couple of new themes to the service, one of which included a dark option, in a theme called Hello. I really liked the look of this one and, long story short, I made the decision to use this for my blog, The Dent, instead of the original Wordpress.com option. I found Wordpress to be pretty sterile and, despite the fact it really is quite basic, still a little more than I needed for such a light weight blog.

Once the blog part was sorted, I had assumed I’d be leaving it at that. The other issues I mentioned previously were still in place. That was, however, until I saw Manton Reece, the creator of Micro.Blog, write a short post about adding a guide to creating a custom home page for your Micro.blog site. After some further discussion with Manton on the Micro.blog Slack channel, he very kindly provided me with some sample code that would allow me to do exactly what I really wanted to do with Micro.blog, namely display only my main posts on the front page of my blog. This code was optimised for the Marfa theme, and did cause a few issues with the Hello theme. I made some small tweaks my end, but also received some much appreciated help from a Micro.blog community member by the name of @jsonbecker. He helped me fix a large formatting issue I came across, for which I am very grateful indeed. You can find my final version of the code on my GitLab repository.

Any posts that I create that are not categorised as Article or Podcast are simply not visible on the main page of my blog. I can then share anything else, including the short tweet like posts as much as I want without contaminating the main feed. This has now snowballed into my single Micro.blog account providing a multitude of self-hosted and independent options for a variety of services I’ve been using and I couldn’t be happier with it.

The Micro.blog service now covers the following:

  • A Blogging Platform: The most obvious service for Micro.blog to replace was Wordpress. I like the simplicity of Micro.blog and the extremely clean theme, along with the native Markdown support and excellent Support network.
  • Twitter: Now that I can include my short notes / tweets in a separate page on my blog I’m finding I’m enjoying using it far, far more. While I don’t want a very formal blog, I also don’t want one that is filled with a variety of the inane waffle I spew in a day to day basis. Now I don’t have to.
  • Instagram: I’ve been using Instagram for years, but over the last few months I’ve been regretting any time I spend there. I like it to both store and share my images but browsing the timeline is just painful. With Sunlit, Micro.blog’s answer to Instagram, I can both share my own images to a service where I retain the full ownership and rights of that which I share, but I can also enjoy a feed of fantastic photography from the community. This is photography to be enjoyed, not photography from celebrities aimed at selling me some diet pills or some other guff I have no interest in.

Beyond the items above, Micro.blog has also proven to be a bit of a gateway drug into a world I didn’t know existed until recently, namely the IndieWeb community. A community that, in it’s own words, is a people-focused alternative to the “corporate web”_. While that sounds a little hipster I’m finding it all pretty fascinating. The IndieWeb community has spawned open services like Indiepaper, a read later service and Indie Book Club, which is a simple app for tracking books you’re reading. I’m only just scratching the surface of this community, so I will save any more discussion for another day / post, but if you’re at all interested in alternatives to the likes of Facebook and the like absorbing all of your data, I’d highly recommend looking into it.

While I have jumped around blogging services a lot over the years, and I can’t say I wont do it again, I can certainly say that I am currently going all in on Micro.blog and taking ownership of the various things I put out there on the web. I hope those of you reading will continue to follow along with me and The Dent blog and enjoy the ride along with me.