Given the recent news of Medium raising $25M and Svbtle opening up to the public I thought it would be an appropriate time to explain why I’m not using either of them. They’re both simple, clean products that allow writers to concentrate on their writing rather than configuring the dozens of options available in other blogging platforms. They’ve also done a great job with the typography that makes the content enjoyable to read. Compared to the other content websites out there, they’re incredible fast - they have a minimal structure and don’t load a ton of external content - especially when compared to the major publishers out there now such as the news sites and the social networks.
Yet I’m not writing on either of them, nor on Tumblr, Wordpress, or Quora even though I tried each one. For me, writing is about personal expression and being able to control the entire experience - both from the content generation up to the consumption - is important to me. I realize my design will never be as elegant as theirs but at least I can change it whenever I want. A year ago I wanted to include the D3 library for a post - this would have been impossible with Svbtle or Medium and I would have had to use static images. Recently I wanted to share some charts that I generated but on the first pass I realized they were too large for the content - with a few small tweaks to my theme I was able to incorporate them into my blog. I’ve also been thinking about using Mixpanel to track various events - something I’d never be able to do without full control.
The custom design is part of it but the other value lies in decoupling. I want to be able to decouple the creation of content from the presentation of content from the spreading of content. As an engineer, I like the fact that I’m not tied down to any platform - I know I can get additional pageviews by leveraging the built-in marketing networks these platforms provide but having marketing integrated into a creation tool feels dirty. I’d rather rely on Twitter and Hacker News to share my content. Sure it’s more difficult but it’s a more lasting way to get followers and readers for your content rather than the platform itself.
By being independent, I never have to think about how these platforms evolve and what the impact will be. They’ll have to monetize at some point and I don’t want to worry about that outcome. We’re already seeing massive changes in the way content is produced and consumed and being able to experiment with various approaches and technologies is important - especially for someone in technology. Relying on a third party that’s trying to do too much betrays that.
PS - I just realized I never mentioned how I host my blog. It’s currently hosted on Github pages using the Jekyll-Bootstrap plugin. At the moment, it gives me the control I want, deals with usage spikes, and is free. If anything ever changes, I can quickly pull everything down and host it on my own.