Exploring Versions of Home

I am still pondering where my writing lives, wondering what to do with this blog — the closest thing I have to an online home. Is it time to renovate, or expand, or demolish? And I think about things I’ve read recently, from the death of the blog, to the idea of one’s digital homestead, to the enormity of choice on the web, to much more — through the lens of my tiny house journey.

Downsized and moved out of San Francisco, my husband and I are working toward our plan to move into a tiny house on wheels. This week, we put a deposit down for the trailer and shell of our house, and soon we’ll talk more about the design of our future home. We’re excited to create the exact house we want with our own hands — from the plumbing and wiring, to the solar and propane setup, to the wood siding and trim, to the interior details. You can build and design a “normal-sized” house, of course, but a 131-square-foot structure feels much more manageable, especially for two people who have absolutely no building experience.

I love being able to think about space this way: to consider and work with only what we need, and to shape it as we see fit. To pay attention to details we might overlook in a bigger home. To make every inch count, and every square foot just so.

* * *

Envisioning the digital version of home, on the other hand, has become difficult. We spread ourselves thin, Facebooking and Instagramming and tweeting, sharing stuff on Tumblr, and on and on. As I’ve written before, we pee in different places: multiplying our bylines, expanding our territories. While I work for and use one of the most popular blogging platforms in the world, WordPress.com, I’m always curious about what else is out there, from Medium to Ghost, to Squarespace and Svbtle, to Hi and Exposure.

There are so many choices for us to publish online, and I wonder: Will any of these alternatives hold my interest? What might replace Writing Through the Fog?

To compare the publishing experience on several platforms, I took a blog post from the fall on returning to Hanoi and used it to create pieces on Medium, Hi, and Exposure. (I’d signed up for an account at Ghost as well, but before I knew it, my free 30-day trial ran out, and I haven’t returned since.) While the copy of the post remained the same, the finished products varied slightly due to each platform’s features.

On Medium, the interface is uncluttered and elegant, and drafting text is quite simple. Administrative options are minimal and pretty much invisible, so all you do is write. You can select a featured image to display at the top; for my post, I chose a shot that I didn’t include in my original one that captures Hanoi’s street movement well, and looks pretty good spread across the page. On Medium, I also like the effect of text gliding over a full-width image as you scroll down — a bit of movement without being too distracting:

Inserting images is easy as well, and I love how my words and images are displayed — the look is clean and professional.

* * *

Likewise, I’m attracted to Hi because of its elegant, minimal layout. Hi calls itself a space for real-time storytelling, and here, you first publish a “sketch” — a 20-word snippet of text that captures a moment’s thought, from wherever you are in the world. It’s cute, but also clever, as you’re less likely to experience writer’s block, and the blank page isn’t so daunting. Twenty words and you’re done. Once published, you can return to this moment — this “memory marker” — and expand on your initial thought.

To create my sketch on Hi, I pulled a line from my original post, and then cut-and-pasted the rest of the piece. You can set a featured image at the top, as on Medium, while inserting text and images is simple as well. It’s also nice to see your moment embedded on a world map — a visual touch that reminds me of Maptia.

* * *

Exposure focuses on photography. The platform is sleek and simple, like the others, and I love the design in general, from my profile page to an individual piece, like this one compiling random travel snapshots. The large images look fantastic, though there’s less room to play with prose, and as I dragged images into the post, I realized I didn’t want to add much text: the layout truly calls for big, bold photographs to tell your story.

In the Exposure version of my Hanoi post, I opted for a different featured image — another favorite of a woman balancing baskets of fruit on her shoulders as she crosses the street. On Exposure, you can showcase many photographs at once in a gallery, interspersed with text. You can do this on other platforms, too, but the overall feel on Exposure is smooth and very pleasing, like you’re flipping through the pages of an expensive art book from a museum.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 11.01.14 PM

* * *

And so, will I spend more time on other platforms, exploring new communities and finding my place among them? Will you soon receive my “change of address” email, informing you of my move, and that Writing Through the Fog, already a space where updates are scarce, will be no more?

I’ll always experiment with publishing elsewhere: trying out new tools, expanding on ideas published here, evolving and shaping myself as a writer on the web. It’d be foolish not to, as I never know with New Internet Things. Usually, I try and discard. But occasionally, I find something new, usually simple — Pocket, Simplenote — that quickly becomes a natural, necessary tool in my day-to-day life.

But as for a new blogging and publishing platform? Even though I constantly wonder what this blog is, and what I want to accomplish here, Writing Through the Fog will continue to be my online hub. I love the simple publishing experience I’ve found elsewhere, how elegant and gorgeous my Hanoi post looked on other platforms, and how my writing was now part of a new community — one completely different from the one at WordPress.com. And I’ll continue to publish writing and photography elsewhere, as I see fit, to pee in different places.

You can create your own profile on Medium and Hi and Exposure, on which you present yourself, compile your work, and become part of a network of ideas and topics and collections and moments. But there’s an element of renting out space on these platforms, and I’m reminded of the loft my husband and I just moved out of — one unit within a huge, impersonal condo complex — and our quest to create the exact home we want.

Amid all these options, nothing matches a cozy space that is mine, and the satisfying feeling I get when a reader visits this URL and knocks on my door. While I understand the allure of communities and social media that make content and people discovery easier, I’m looking forward to building this blog into something that makes sense for me, that I’m proud of, and that truly feels like home. It’s the same approach we’re taking with our tiny house, and both journeys are exciting.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

I am an editor at Longreads. For over a decade, I've worked on curation, editing, and storytelling projects across Automattic, including WordPress.com.

30 thoughts on “Exploring Versions of Home

  1. I am so with you on the issue of too much digital choice and too many digital chores! To keep this brief (time-pressed, of course), I like your blog, am looking forward to reading your Tiny House Journey, as I am intrigued by tiny–well, maybe just small–houses. I assume you’ve seen photos of gypsy wagons in Ireland. Anyway, keep blogging, if only sporadically.

  2. This was a lovely post, and comforting. My condo just sold after being on the market 4 days. I know it’s a beautiful place but was hoping to hold on a little longer. Now, I must locate a flat. Looking forward to having more of a personal space. But as I walk through the doors, I’ve yet to connect to a place and say, “this could be home.” Also, my current home is quite a gem. It’s such a different feel and layout from a flat. I find comfort in knowing I’ll have a garden. I can practice my green thumb and grow herbs and vegetables.

  3. I adore serendipity–especially when it’s feeding something I’m hungering for. To read your post about marrying up your blog home desires with your human home wishes was like coming home to my own thoughts. I’m in the very same process, exploring the same books and similar sites.

    One of the things I love most about writing is the happy discovery of others who feel the same way I do, but put a spin to our shared thoughts with their unique words. I have met so many wonderfully supportive writers through blogging, but you are the first I’ve come across who shares my exciting thirst for the tiny home hunt. I look forward to checking out your Tiny House Travelers. Cheers, Cheri!

  4. Thank you for pointing me in the direction of Hi, Cheri. I knew about Medium but had not heard about Hi. I love this new digital space. My digital home will always remain with WordPress. But my holiday home will now be based on Hi.
    Great post!

  5. Are you still posting? I had just found you and i love your posts, but am missing any updates. Trust life is being good to you wherever you are today.

    1. Hi there — I write here when I can, which isn’t often (every few months if possible). Id like to dedicate more time to personal writing projects but at the moment work and other things are a priority. I’ll try to write something soon — thanks for the encouragement 🙂

  6. Great post. Made me think a lot. The metaphor of this blog as home implies a sense of continuity which is always at odds with a desire to upgrade, as is the case with many people’s physical homes. If you don’t stay in one place, digital or physical, you gather no moss and it stays more like a hotel. At the same time, with so many options constantly available, the digital diaspora, the wandering denizen of digital spaces is also inevitable. If we don’t experiment and keep trying new stuff, we cease to be alive. At the same time, spreading oneself too thin could also mean one’s digital emaciation and ultimate death. But perhaps this won’t be so–perhaps there will be a way to expose different aspects of ourselves in the different platforms/profiles/publishing mediums. After all, the unity of the self–seeing ourselves as a single person–is also an imaginary construct and we’ve gotten too used to it. The multiple digital homes we may inhabit may help to expose the faultlines of that experience in a beneficial way after all. Hope you, I and others will soon find out.

  7. Nice looking blog you have here! I wish I knew how to make things pretty.

    Oh, and thanks for the follow!

    Though I’m curious: did I post something to warrant it, or was it more of a networking thing?

    Regardless, here I am, admiring your site, and my list of subscribers is one closer to (looks) 18,636! Watch out, here I come! *Readies sling and rock* Heh heh.

    Everybody wins, right? 😛

    1. Though I’m curious: did I post something to warrant it, or was it more of a networking thing?

      I found your blog via your email to our WordPress.com editorial inbox — sent you a reply earlier. Thanks for visiting.

      1. Hey Cheri!

        Okay, I just checked my email and saw nothing…somehow that got filtered to “junk.” Hotmail, I tell ya.

        In retrospect, I’m now a little worried my reply came off as snarky, but I can genuinely say that wasn’t my intent. However, I AM a little gun-shy whenever I get a seemingly random like or follow from someone with thousands of followers, so I do tend to interrogate a bit after the fact.

        But I did see that you were affiliated with WordPress, so I thought something was up. Must be a fun job, reading all the time, working on creating your dream space. I should run some ideas for my constantly evolving bachelor pad for you. (Read: “Fully-functioning Babe Lair. Heh heh.)

        I’m going to reply to your email now. 🙂



  8. I tried Medium recently with a post that did well on WP. I got 700+ hits on WP….nothing on Medium. It was supposed to make things simple and easy. They promote it as the place for writing, where writers write and everyone will see your work. But I haven’t had one hit. No one has added it to their collections. Medium is just a medium that doesn’t make sense to me. 😉

    And then there is the time consuming effort of promoting your blog. How many tweets does a popular blog make? I think I will just spend time writing….at home on Word Press.

  9. First, your blog is gorgeous! Second, I am very jealous of your tiny house adventures, I’ll be following that too. Third, I’ve seen your blurred-guy-on-bike photo of Vietnam elsewhere… that one is worthy of framing, even in a tiny house.

  10. You bring up points that resonate with me. My daughter tells me to send posts to blogger, and to instagram every day. I need a keeper to do all these things! I do appreciate your accounts of checking out other platforms, and I am eager to hear about your downsizing.

  11. Cheri, I especially like the way your Hanoi photo looks on Hi, because the blurred action of the bicyclist zipping from right to left looks stunning on the wide screen of my computer monitor. The other thing I like about Hi is the way the site uses the word “moments” to refer to additional posts in the same location (“Other Moments in Hanoi,” in the case of your post), or on the same topic (for example, “All Moments in Travel”). I think a lot about the word “moment,” especially when I am writing in my blog about moments of joy or relief or pain or sorrow or insight into the human condition.

  12. We grapple with this too. It used to be that there was a learning curve when picking up new social media platforms which (almost helpfully) made you less like likely to flit from site to site without some research and contemplation, but now that everything is WYSIWYG and the repurposing is easy, that no long needs to narrow down your choices.

    To carry on your metaphor of tiny footprint living, the question for us (who live large in 460 sq ft) is, if you’re renting out a hundred tiny apartments, how much time can you spend in any of them to make them authentically you? And what priority do you place on how popular or “of the moment” the location of your apartment is are as opposed to a floorplan that really works for you?

    Kate said it well, it is a constant challenge to stay abreast and keep relevant, but also to stay focused on your content and not let “noise” generated by all the connectivity eat in to creative time.

  13. I am glad you are staying, as I just found you….Your experience with the various blogging platforms I found very useful and intriguing, although for now I simply want a place to settle in and write, as you expressed. I will look forward to hearing more (in your lovely prose) about your ‘small space journey’, as my husband and I are in the process of downsizing, as well. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for coming to my doorstep, reading, and commenting, then 🙂 You put it well — we simply want a place to settle in and write. Good luck in your own process of downsizing, too!

  14. Wonderful post, Cheri; I loved not only your thoughts about the challenges of managing one’s digital presence, but also your comparisons of some of the platforms with which you’ve experimented. But I’m relieved that you’ve ultimately decided to stay in your WordPress “home” — albeit it with a bit of remodeling, and maybe an addition or two. You’ve really built something wonderful here … a cozy space that really is uniquely *yours.* I look forward to more of your thoughtful and thought-provoking posts!

  15. Wow! Being relatively new to blogging on WordPress, I can’t even imagine branching out to other venues. I am still trying to build my following here. Good luck with your tiny home on wheels – sounds like a real challenge.

  16. Excellent post. It was interesting reading the thoughts on the form of blogging from an intelligent person. I am working through these ideas right now. I have two blogs right now and I am not totally pleased with either aesthetically or the functionality of either of them. It really is an art form in and of itself. Thanks for your interesting thoughts on this matter.

    Secondly, sharing your experience building and living in your new home would be really interesting. My family is considering a move and different forms of living spaces and so I would love to hear more on that. Thanks again for the great post.

  17. My mind spins at all the choices offered. For now, I am most comfortable on WordPress. I empathize with your statement about being stretched thin by the variety of social media connectivity. It’s a constant challenge to stay abreast and keep relevant.

    1. Keeping relevant. Yes! Similar to our ever-updating versions of our apps/computer software, it feels like we must “upgrade” ourselves to stay in the loop and timely and relevant. We must be on here and there, posting this and that, to matter. Quite a challenge.

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