Community

A showcase of the Write.as community

This is an ongoing series where CJ Eller, community manager at Write.as, takes the time to chat with the many interesting people who use Write.as about their lives & writing practice.

Our second conversation is with Dino Bansigan. Dino is a .NET developer by day who maintains an ever growing online journal that spans a vast range of interests.

This conversation was conducted over on Are.na


CJ Eller: So many ways to start here — let's start with journaling. Have you always had an online journal in one form or another or is it a more recent thing? I am curious how that came about.

Dino Bansigan: This is the first online journal that I’ve ever had. Before this, my online presence revolved around a private Facebook account. I didn't have anything that would come close to an online journal.

This actually all started as I was looking for a replacement to my gaming journal. Updating my then gaming journal was time consuming. I wanted an easier way to write new posts, which is how I ended up trying out Write.as. I thought this would be a good replacement for my gaming journal. But the more I used it, the more I realized, I could do so much more here. I can write about other stuff and not limit myself to writing about video games.

Around the same time that I discovered Write.as, I started my first ever Bullet Journal. So, you can imagine that I was very much into “journals” around that time. Add to that the discovery of freedom of writing on Write.as and the idea for an online journal was born.

CJ Eller: Ah, so it all started with a gaming journal. Where did the idea for keeping a gaming journal come from?

Dino Bansigan: I had an Instagram account where I shared photos of the video games and board games that I played. Soon after I realized that posting in more detail in Instagram became a chore. I wanted to share more info, but it was just not suited for long-form entries. I needed someplace where I can write and share posts in more detail. So, I created a gaming journal as an extension of that Instagram account.

CJ Eller: So how did your gaming journal blossom into your online journal? Was there a specific moment where you realized you could use your gaming journal as a more general journal? Did other topics seem more natural to write about when given the tools to post in more detail? I'd be curious to hear how that evolution occurred.

Dino Bansigan: It happened rather quickly. While I intended for it to replace my gaming journal, I also started writing posts of a more personal nature. Early on, I alternated between writing about video games and writing about my day. This went on for a week until all of a sudden, I was writing more about my day and scarcely about video games.

I couldn't recall if there was a specific moment that led me down the path to turning it into an online journal. However, in a Bullet Journal entry from 04/26/2019, I wrote this,

“Since there is no newsfeed, no likes, no follows, no comments, it is perfect for just sharing thoughts.”

That explains part of why I gravitated toward writing about more than just video games. Write.as' minimalist design and focus on privacy evokes the idea of writing on a personal journal or diary. There's none of the regular distractions that you get on social media platforms. There are no ads, even on the free account. And without a friends list, I didn't feel limited by the topics I wanted to write about. It felt like a personal writing space that just happened to be online. It felt like a place where I could just write down my thoughts and hit publish.

CJ Eller: Interesting — did you feel like newsfeeds, likes, follows, and comments got in the way of simply sharing your thoughts? Because you mentioned how your previous online presence was a private Facebook account. I imagine that while you got the freedom to post private statuses, the noisiness of newsfeeds & such still got in the way.

Dino Bansigan: Likes, follows and comments can all influence me to post about what is popular with my audience. I've seen this happen most notably on Instagram. I shared a photo from Ace Combat 7 and got a lot of likes, comments and new followers. Soon enough, I stopped posting about the other games I've been playing. I was chasing the likes I was getting from sharing Ace Combat 7 photos.

Newsfeeds are a distraction, plain and simple. I sit down to write something and find myself mindlessly browsing the newsfeed. On Facebook for instance, all it takes is a slight scroll downwards and you're on the newsfeed. This is why blogging/writing platforms are superior to social media when it comes to writing. There's less stuff onscreen to distract me from the writing process.

CJ Eller: You're touching on something I think I struggle with a lot on the web. Reading bleeds into writing all the time, making it a dissonant experience. Sometimes I can't write because I am busy reading feeds. So using a dedicated writing platform is something you find helpful. Do you have any other personal tips on how to better delineate writing & reading on the web — where you can both read & publish things equally? One thing I noticed is you often make journal entries about the things you read — but I'll let you describe that!

Dino Bansigan: My default mode is always going to be reading, but I try to balance it out by scheduling days for when I'm going to write. In the past, I would write whenever I want to. After realizing how much time it takes to write a good post, I've started cutting back on impulse writing. Nowadays, I make use of my weekly planning to schedule days for writing. This frees me up from not having to worry about when to write.

I try to manage my reading sources with an RSS reader and a few newsletters. I hardly venture out into the web to look for articles to read. I even keep up with the read.write.as feed on my RSS reader, Feedly. I also prefer to read posts using Feedly's built-in browser. I find that doing so reduces the amount of links I'm exposed to. This in turn reduces distraction and stops me from hopping from one post to another.

To cut down even more on the amount of stuff I need to read, I first skim an article or post. I look for keywords or sentences that tell me if it is worth dedicating my full attention to. Sometimes I skim the first paragraph. Sometimes I go farther. I ask the question, “Will I gain something of value if I read this?” If so, then I'll read it.

I've read many posts about the benefits of writing things down with pen and paper. So, whenever I read or listen to something that struck me, I write it down on my Bullet Journal. After my digital declutter, I started writing my online journal entries based off the entries on my Bullet Journal. One benefit to this approach was being able to go through the stuff that I've written down before. It affords me another chance to reflect on them and think about why I wrote them down in the first place.

CJ Eller: Reading is a default for many — myself included! It never would have occurred to me to reduce, let alone intentionally think about link exposure. I'll have to look into using an RSS reader. But talk to me about how you developed your writing schedule. Was it as easy as setting a writing schedule that you keep to this day or did you have to consistently change it over time? Maybe it isn't as regimented as I'm making it out to be?

Dino Bansigan: It started with me deciding that I should only do Music Log posts on Fridays. Then as the weeks went by, I decided my other posts could benefit from following a schedule as well. I try to keep it simple though. Mondays are usually reserved for Journal Entries. And Fridays for Music Log entries. For the days in between, I plan out what to post on my weekly plan. This can be anything from Bookmarks, Game Logs, Experiment Logs, more Journal Entries, etc... I leave weekends open since I don't usually write on weekends.

I try to keep my writing schedule flexible and stress free. If I don't finish writing a Journal Entry by the end of Monday, I let it flow to the next day. If I was scheduled to write another post that day, it will have to wait until the Journal Entry is finished. I let the writing tasks cascade like that and handle them as Daily Log tasks on my Bullet Journal. If a post doesn't get written, no big deal. It will get scheduled for the next week. What I'm trying to avoid is making writing feel like work, because then it will take all the fun away.

CJ Eller: That's great. Keeping writing fun is such a key point too — especially as a motivating factor to continue writing in the first place. So what are the ways that you keep writing fun? Does it lie in the subject matter? Tinkering with the tools you use? Because even the experimentation you do with your online journal has been interesting to observe. Personally I enjoyed your “most popular posts” Glitch app on your “About” page.

Dino Bansigan: I think the choice of subject matter is a factor in keeping writing fun. I have the most fun writing about something that I'm passionate about. Whether that be music, video games, technology use or even my faith. But let me backtrack a little bit. Fun might not be the only word that applies here. Maybe satisfied is another word to use. I write something. Publish it on the web. Read it for myself. And if I feel satisfied with what I wrote, then I would say, “That was fun. Let's do it again!”

Another way I keep writing fun, and I've mentioned this before, is by scheduling when to write new posts. It might not work for everyone, but for me it goes like this: I start my day and ask myself, “So... what am I going to write about today?” It's almost like opening a new present every week. The idea that I'm not going to be writing about the same topic over and over again, keeps it fun for me.

The tinkering aspect of owning a personal website was really surprising. I never expected any of it to be fun. In fact, I initially thought it would fall under the category of “website maintenance”, which to me sounds boring. I was wrong. Dare I say I get more fun out of tinkering with my website than writing new posts. Something about solving a problem and seeing the fix live on my website. Or adding new functionality to my website. Or updating the look and feel of the site. Those activities give me a good dose of satisfaction that I don't get from writing new posts. To be honest, it can be addicting sometimes.

I'm so glad that you introduced the use of Glitch apps to the write.as community. I very much enjoyed trying to create Glitch apps that can extend the functionality of my websites. I got the idea for the “Popular Posts” app after seeing a “Popular Articles” list on someone else's website. Since I already got a Search app working, I thought I could tweak it to come up with the most viewed posts on my site. And I did. That was a fun learning experience for me.

CJ Eller: “Satisfied” is a much better way to put it. I feel the same way too — publishing a post primes you to publish another which primes you to publish another. It develops a momentum that's hard to combat when you get it going.

Could you delve more into the tinkering aspect of your blog that you found surprising? You bring up a fascinating point about the fine line between the tedium of “website maintenance” and the exploratory joy of tinkering.

It's something I first experienced here, trying to create a wrapper for the Write.as API and then Glitch apps that took advantage of that API wrapper in fun ways (thanks for the kind words by the way). I never did this kind of tinkering on the Wordpress blog I had for years before. Then again, technical aptitude may have something to do with that — I didn't know how to code then. But there's something about when the technical skill and the curiosity come together, where you realize you have more freedom to add functionality to your website, just like you said.

Dino Bansigan: Ah the joy of tinkering. It first started with me wanting to add a copyright notice on my site's footer. I figured if I'm going to keep it for a long time, I need a way to update the copyright notice at the start of a new year. Initially I thought I would do it using Javascript. But then, I came across robert xu's blog. I saw how he had added the copyright notice all the way at the bottom. So, instinctively I tried to highlight it with my mouse so that I could do, Right-click -> Inspect Element. You know, try to figure out how it was done. I believe my reaction was, “Holy crap, I can't highlight it!” I then spent an hour or so trying to figure out why I can't highlight his copyright notice, and how he had implemented it. Eventually, I learned that it was done using CSS. That was the moment that led me to thinking I could do so much more here than just cranking out new posts.

From there I decided to tinker with my blog's theme. I looked at some of the site templates found on HTML5 UP and tried to mimic them. I admit to not being an expert in CSS. I know enough to get by. But tinkering with my site's theme was a fun learning experience for me. There were days where I put off writing new posts just so I can play around with the custom CSS on my website.

Then I started thinking about how to improve my website's functionality. I asked questions like, how do I make navigation easier? How I do add a search bar? How do I maintain an archive page? How do I keep track of the hashtags I use in my posts? How do I encourage comments? This is where the use of Javascript and Glitch apps helped tremendously. I've had so much fun trying to come up with answers to those questions.

CJ Eller: That's a fantastic — there's something about this kind of programming that doesn't feel like programming in a traditional sense. I've described it to myself as “small c coding” (a riff on Tom Critchlow's small b blogging, where you aren't exactly coding something from the ground up and worrying about development environments (“big C coding”) but instead changing & remixing little segments to customize your blog or personal site. Reminds me of how Myspace pages had the ability to drop in custom CSS — allowing people a way into coding that didn't have an avenue before.

You're a programmer by trade right? I'd be interested to get your take on how you describe this kind of tinkering & coding, especially how it compares to the programming you do professionally.

Dino Bansigan: I call this kind of tinkering and coding “recreational programming.” It's a term that I heard from Cal Newport. It is not something I do because I need to, but something that I do for fun. It is a leisure activity. For instance, I don't really need to have a “Popular Posts” app on my site. But I do, because I can and it's fun to create an app for it. Same goes for the Archive app, the Search app or even the navigation links that I added on posts belonging to a series.

Correct, I work as a .NET software developer. Most of my time at work is spent working on the back-end. That means working with databases and services. And that's fine, because I love writing code that talks to the database and vice versa. But that also means that I don't get to work on front-end stuff, like websites. So, maintaining a personal website gives me the chance to work on my web development skills. I've learned a great deal about CSS and Javascript from trying to improve on my sites. And when I started getting into Glitch apps, I learned a bit of Python too. All fun learning experiences for me.

The biggest difference between the programming I do at work, and the “recreational programming” that I do on my websites, is the limitation on what I can code for. At work, if I run into a problem that I cannot solve, I can write a new application or service from scratch. But on my websites, I am limited in the ways I can solve a problem. I need to find a solution while staying within the restrictions imposed by the platform I am on. It is a different approach to solving a problem, but still fun nonetheless.

CJ Eller: Do you similarly think of the writing you do as fitting within a “professional” or “recreational” lens?

Because I noticed that you also have a dev log dedicated to your experiences as a .NET developer. That might fit in the “professional” lens. In the “About Me” of your dev log, however, you add a little nod to your journal:

If you are a personal friend (i.e. friend from high-school, college, etc...) and you want to find out what I'm up to these days, or for non software development content, you can also check out my online journal.

Reading that made me wonder about how you think about the relationship between writing on your online journal & dev log.

Dino Bansigan: My dev blog is my “professional” website. I created it to build up my “personal brand” as a software developer. The main audience for it are other software developers and potential employers. It is a way for them to see what kind of experience I have as a software developer. That is why it has a more singular focus on only software development topics. I did try to use it for non-software development posts, but it didn't seem to fit the blog nor the audience. That's another reason why I created my online journal. On my dev blog, I was restricted to only talking about topics related to my work as a professional software developer. There was no place to talk about non-work stuff, like my love for music and video games. I needed another outlet for those.

And that's where my online journal comes in. The writing on my online journal definitely falls under the “recreational” lens. On my online journal, I can talk about anything I want. Even my use of it is recreational. I've tried using it as an online diary of sorts. I've used it to track bookmarks. I've even explored ways to use it in place of social media. It's like this little place on the web where I am free to explore ways to make the most of it.

CJ Eller: What were some of those non-software development posts you initially wrote on your dev blog? I imagine they foreshadow a lot of the topics you write about on your online journal.

Dino Bansigan: Most of the non-software development posts that I wrote on my dev blog were bookmarks posts. As you already know, I carried over that practice into my online journal. They did foreshadow a bit of the topics that I would write about on my online journal.

CJ Eller : Dino, thanks for taking the time to chat with me here — it's been a pleasure. Just wanted to end with a general question: do you have any observations or takeaways from writing on the web so far that you'd like to bring up?

Dino Bansigan: One thing that struck me with regards to writing on the web, is this idea of a “contract with the reader.” Unfortunately, I cannot remember where I read it from, otherwise I would credit the author. The idea is, when a reader decides to read something you've published online, the reader is gifting you their time. In return, you should give back something of value, so as not to have wasted their time. As it is right now, there's so much content on the web, but not all provides something of value to the reader. I am no doubt guilty of this too, especially with the constant experimentation I'm doing on my online journal. But the bottom line is, we should all be cognizant of the amount of time we take away from our readers.

CJ, thanks for having me. It has been fun chatting with you!

This is an ongoing series where CJ Eller, community manager at Write.as, takes the time to chat with the many interesting people who use Write.as about their lives & writing practice.

Our first conversation is with David Blue. David is the founder & editor of Extratone, a digital magazine about technology, electronic music, and New Culture. He also has a personal blog and writes about car culture over at Honk.

This conversation was conducted over on Are.na


CJ Eller: So before we got on this chat, you mentioned how Markdown was something that saved you from fiddling your life away. Can you go more into that?

David Blue: I started an online magazine four years ago originally on WordPress. I thought I knew something about web development, but honestly I did not. It ended up becoming a fixation on trying to make something technically different from what I'd seen done with WordPress, which detracted heavily from my Editorial duties over the years. I'm on the OCD spectrum so I just couldn't let it go. I spent thousands of hours fiddling with different themes and formatting within those themes, and what I ended up with was a mess. I would make changes that would break old posts, so I'd go back and fix those, only to make more changes days/weeks/months later and have to go back again. I'd known vaguely about Markdown, but it wasn't until it was mentioned in the WordPress dev Slack that I really considered it seriously as a way out of what I'd been doing. I realized that its inherit limitations were actually very good for me – that I needed a limited system to constrain my workflow to keep myself on task. Finally, in late-2018, I started to convert our old content to Markdown and essentially haven't looked back since.

CJ Eller: Did it take a while for you to accept Markdown's limitations? What happened after this turning point for you? Did you look for a Markdown plugin on WordPress to help?

David Blue: There are third-party plugins, yes, but I believe the new WordPress editor now supports “markdown blocks,” which is sortof handy for those who want to continue in that direction. The turning point was probably when we ran out of money and lost our account with our hosting provider. I was left with an old external HD full of old backups and an empty domain. I'd already started moving that direction within WordPress (largely because of the Gutenberg editor project,) but losing the site in its entirety was what I really needed to push us into a more modern, progressive CMS. Honestly, Markdown is capable of everything we actually need and nothing more. I'd like to think I was able to realize this from the beginning.

CJ Eller: So you're left with an old external HD full of old backups and an empty domain. Talk to me about the process then of finding that modern, progressive CMS. Did you have a vague idea of what you were looking for? I imagine getting those backups ready for whatever you were going to choose as another process entirely.

David Blue: I actually decided to ditch the backups and just move forward with a different Editorial direction (the project has since been more or less put on hiatus.) I knew Markdown had to be involved and that I never wanted to look at anything like WordPress' dashboard ever again. I played around with a local Ghost instance but just didn't feel anything for it, if that makes sense. I'd already moved my personal blog to Write.As months before and eventually realized that it was just what Extratone needed – so far, I've only imported my own contributions and the most recent work from others.

CJ Eller: Could you explain what you mean by feeling something for a piece of software? I noticed this in your recent post on your personal blog. What I enjoyed about it so much is that there's a personal enthusiasm about the software you recommend jumps through the screen. I want to use Bear more after reading your post.

David Blue: I'm glad to hear that! I suppose it dates back to my upbringing on a farm in rural Missouri, where I felt a real affection for – and attachment to – our tractors, combine, and such. When one cares about their work, I think it's inevitable for them to be emotionally invested in the tools they use to accomplish it every day. During my brief stint in IT in the beginning of 2019, I saw a lot of users struggling with outdated and ridiculously unintuitive software throughout their entire workday and it made me really appreciate the idea of “good workflow.” I'm not really a developer, but I believe software can always be better because I've seen it. As an End User of sorts with not much cash, I feel like my main contribution back to developers should be celebrating their good work. This is an idea I feel I do not encounter enough in day-to-day life.

CJ Eller: As someone who also had a brief stint in IT, I totally agree with the struggles people go through because of outdated & unintuitive software. But IT also made me realize how much of software is personal — someone will want a solution that's unintuitive to you but is intuitive to them. You learn a lot of empathy from that. I am intrigued by your last point there — why don't you think you encounter the idea of celebrating software developers enough in day-to-day life?

David Blue: I suppose specifically I mean I don't see enough celebration of good development. It's hard to challenge the personal workflow of anyone, yes, but I hope folks will continue to want to better their lives with new solutions. As I mentioned in my Tips post, Microsoft Word is a great specific example of software that simply should not be used anymore – especially in composition for The Web. Not that Word is celebrated, necessarily, but its alternatives are not. It should be noted that I have no specific authority in this matter other than years of experience with – and enjoyment of – playing around with software. I just think that End Users deserve better than they get, and awareness of new/different software is a huge part of the problem. Making average people aware of better solutions should be the primary function of special interest tech journalism, IMO.

CJ Eller: Great point about Microsoft Word. I don't even remember the last time I seriously used it — high school maybe? And like you said, discovery can be an issue to the adoption of these alternative tools. So are there any common patterns you've noticed as to how you've come about these software alternatives that you now use? Patterns that someone could adopt?

David Blue: It's not that I slave away, but it does take a lot of time to discover them. The simple answer is: I drink a lot of caffeine and hyperfixate on the internet. I'm not sure it's something the average user should want to adopt, but if they do, they should be on Mastodon. They should be googling “alternatives to...” regularly, and they should worship Free and Open Source Software. Accepting that you never have to settle for one piece of software is probably the beginning. For lack of a better term, I just love playing around with software. That's not something I would advocate for my old clients or other End Users – I would rather find out myself and then present a list of alternatives in an entertaining way. I hope that's an appropriate and sufficient answer hehe.

CJ Eller: No that's great! The acceptance of never having to settle for one piece of software is at once valuable and challenging to adopt. If you keep switching you could be a sort of software vagabond who throws their data into a rucksack to head to the next viable platform. I've always had trouble trying to find the proper balance between playing around with software & learning a tool well enough that it can be useful. How have you personally navigated that? I could imagine your foray into & out of Wordpress as a place to start.

David Blue: It's always a challenge when trying new things. I obsess over different ways to accomplish tasks. I've probably signed Extratone for 15 different newsletter services (including Buttondown today) though I haven't actually written a single edition of our newsletter in nearly two years. I think it's only recently that I've been able to look at these habits from a reasonable perspective. As in, I am now able to finally differentiate between playing and being productive, but it took some 15 years. Self-awareness of one's actual progress is key. Asking questions like why am I actually doing this – for profit or for play? Differentiating between these two is something someone like me will always struggle with, I think.

CJ Eller: The distinction between playing and being productive can be quite blurry. I sometimes find that playing around with a piece of software can lead to a productive use of it. How about you? Did you start with the idea of creating Extratone first and then tried to find the right software to fit the job? Or did you start playing around with Wordpress and then the idea of the digital publication took form soon after?

David Blue: That's an insightful supposition. I actually tried to launch an online magazine before Extratone with virtually zero editorial focus along with a standalone podcast that I'd been hosting on WordPress for years. I originally began playing around with WordPress sites in my early adolescence, so you could say it all culminated in the idea. It took maturity to realize that I actually wanted to build a platform for other voices rather than continue to invest in my own. I'd like to believe that was all enabled by the playing hehe.

CJ Eller: So what lead you to the conclusion of building a platform for other voices? Especially curious from the maturity angle. Because you still have a personal blog, so it doesn't feel like you've completely neglected your personal voice. But would you consider that as not the same investment of time & effort that you'd put into something like Extratone?

David Blue: I should be clear that I have not accomplished what I set out to do with Extratone. After a fairly big personal trauma in 2015, I had a bit of an existential crisis and realized that I had surrounded myself with so many talented (in a particularly relevant way) online friends who were producing all sorts of incredible content – music and videos, mostly. I realized that I was better at editing and other platform duties than I was at writing, and that perhaps the online communities I was astride could be provided a single banner to give themselves. In that sense, I haven't figured out how to do what I set out to yet. Ideally, my byline would be completely gone from Extratone, so I've more or less put it on hold until I figure out how to accomplish that. Turning it into a somewhat profitable media company is still my biggest long-term life goal.

CJ Eller: The curatorial characteristic you describe is underrated, even though the “everyone is a curator” idea is jammed down our throats all the time. There's something about this curation on a person-to-person level that still has lots of room for experimentation. On that subject, do you have any examples of communities, sites, or models that guide where you'd want Extratone to go?

David Blue: My citable aspirations in that regard have been somewhat superficial, I'm afraid. From a technical perspective, I really admired what Joshua Topolsky was trying to do with The Outline – which just closed this month, actually. They built their own CMS including a bespoke advertising delivery platform which really looked great but they just couldn't figure out a sustainable editorial focus. In my fantasy world, I have the connections and digital media insight of Topolsky and know how to apply them in a way that supports our community because I don't see any one brand popping up any substantial umbrellas over the electronic musicians I know. (It wasn't until “too late” that I realized Extratone's sole editorial focus should have been electronic music all along.) I read a lot about media but I'm pretty picky as far as hero worship goes when it comes to my own professional goals. I once promised that Extratone would never run ads, so I could see some sort of non-profit classification working out in our future. I believe I could be an excellent curator – I'm just not quite sure how to get there yet.

CJ Eller: I think you're a great curator — had to ask that question of influence because I think you have a unique curatorial presence on the web. Just saw you tweet about tractordata.com. Who else would recommend that? Love it. That's why I thought Are.na would be right up your alley. So you emphasized “our community” there — what do you define as your community in that broader context? If it's the electronic music community you referred to, I'd love to hear how you got immersed in that subculture.

David Blue: Well thank you! That's a question I'm still struggling to define. Electronic music is about as far as I've gotten. I met most of my talented friends on Twitter over the past 10 years or so and have tried to contain them in a list before. There are innate challenges in defining such a creative community – I have done my best to label without being constricting, but it's definitely difficult trying to figure out how to provide a flag which everyone feels comfortable flying. I still think the best I've done to articulate what I'm trying to say was for Extratone's About page. Most of the folks I'm talking about are used to hustling their own brand so it's been a real challenge working on the right way to reach out.

CJ Eller: A flag which everyone feels comfortable flying — that's a great way to put it. What I find interesting about your internet presence is that you defy the idea of flying just a single flag. Along with Extratone you have multiple podcasts, multiple blogs, and now you're starting a Motorsports & Tech dedicated Mastodon instance.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how important it is to have many online buckets to put your ideas in. One just feels too limiting, especially if it's solely linked to your legal identity. How do you think about this matter of identity & expression with your own online presence?

David Blue: That's a very good question. I can't take credit for mastd.racing, actually – I'm not sure who created that server but it's administered by an account called RaceControl. You've arrived at another one of my biggest challenges. Consolidating my interests has always been a problem, especially on The Web. Age has definitely helped narrow them down a bit, but I still can't help myself sometimes. I think it's ended up alienating a lot of my followers on social because I have a hard time posting just within my niche(s). I'm not so sure how to feel about this, honestly. One could argue that I should post whatever I want, whenever, but consider your audience is also a concept I can no longer ignore. If anything, I need to learn to let myself be limited a bit more by those buckets. Once again, Extratone is a good example of this – I should've never published app reviews there, but I did. We're all learning, I suppose.

CJ Eller: Do you feel like you have to even learn to limit yourself on your personal blog? It seems like a personal blog can act as the release valve — a way of getting around cornering yourself into the niches that Extratone and other projects require. You can freely write about pens and Picard without feeling constrained to a single subject.

David Blue: I think I'm just now coming around to understanding personal blogging and the freedom that entails. It's been a long while since I've had the urge to write about things on which I don't consider myself at least somewhat of an authority. I think – like many people – I originally just used my personal blog as a guinea pig for messing around with themes, and I'm just now actually catching up on some of the lesser items on my “to-write” list. Since we've begun talking I've begun building my blogs bookmark folder back up and following the #100DaystoOffload challenge, which I find immensely impressive. I can't say I'm quite up to it, personally, but I definitely plan on opening up the taps a bit more. (I also don't want to flood read.write.as with too many joke posts ya know hehe.)

CJ Eller: That's awesome! You're reminding me of the interesting relationship between writing & tinkering when it comes to blogs. They both feed into each other in a strange way. Before, when my blog was on Wordpress, I didn't care about tinkering around — writing was my sole focus. When I moved to my new blog, however, I found myself shift towards creating apps that extend my blog and messing around with its CSS. So it's interesting that you've gone the opposite way, publishing more instead of solely tinkering. What has awoken the urge for you to tackle those items on your personal “to-write” list? To open up those taps a bit more? Because I can see the publication mindset, being somewhat of an authority, getting in the way.

David Blue: That is interesting. I'm wondering how many people are in each of our camps. I hate to be so topical, but the pandemic and being home constantly has definitely contributed. I've also begun to learn to let things go, which is an essential skill. Being able to actually kill work when it needs to die is the real secret. I just built up the strength to delete the rest of my 2019 list a few weeks ago.

CJ Eller: I wonder also! And hey, no problem bringing up the current situation. It's making me write more also. I want to drill into that practice of letting go as an essential skill for blogging. As a final question for this chat, how have you gone about the decision of keeping ideas that you've had for a long time and when to let them go? It's been something I've been struggling with for recently as ideas for blog posts start to pile up.

David Blue: Self-curation is definitely tough. Generally, it's very hard to let things go – especially when I've progressed at all significantly into research/first drafting, but I know when to kill something if I reread and am unable to immediately see where I was going. I've noticed that trying to rekindle interest or momentum in a topic is unusually not a worthwhile use of time in my case. If I can't get my rhythm back fairly early in, I am very unlikely to, ever. That said, I think it's also important to forgive yourself for investing time in something that won't work out – otherwise, you will settle for less than what you originally intended and release something you won't be happy with. Thank you so much for your time! I really enjoyed this!

CJ Eller: Forgive and forget! That's a great point about rekindling an interest being a sign of letting go of an idea. I've done that too many times. This has been a blast to chat virtually David — really enjoyed your thoughts and am looking forward to future blog posts and installments of Extratone!