I’m 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.