This piece has been rattling around in my brain for weeks. The author, Matthew Butterick, asks important questions about the differences between publishing on the web as an artisanal enterprise vs. throwing in with one of the big ad-supported services out there. As someone who has been writing online for some time now, and who continues to use services like Twitter, there is a temptation every so often to scrap this blog and join a service that potentially adds visibility or ease-of-use. But I can’t seem to quit old-fashioned, self-hosted WordPress, open source warts and all.
Every few years this site gets a fresh coat of paint. Sometimes it feels like that’s the point of having this space – to tweak and experiment with what it means to publish online – rather than the writing itself. All of which sort of supports the selling point of the larger services like Medium that say, “we’ll take care of the design, you just do the writing.” The worry is that I’m not a good enough writer to make noise in an environment like that, and not a good enough designer to stand out in an environment like this. For years I’ve attempted to add tweaks and wrinkles to the presentation of the work and writing on this site to make them pop. But the truth is that those expressions have a limiting factor: me.
I am not a writer who reads enough. Nor am I a designer who is fluent in every technique of the day. And with the exception of two teachers in high-school: the English teacher who forced me to confront what writing actually is (even if it took years to finally understand what he was saying), and the art teacher who explained the basics of design in a semester – I am mostly self-taught at both disciplines. It is in that sense that Butterick’s article strikes its most pleasing chord. There is no other way for this site to achieve whatever harmony it does achieve without it’s author having rolled up his sleeves and mixed it up with CSS and Khoi’s grid. The hope is that the result is something sui generis, that’s also worth reading and looking at. Who knows? I guess I’ll keep trying.