Beyond Tweetstorming

It seems "tweetstorming" - using a series of tweets on Twitter to share commentary that requires more space than a single tweet can hold - has become a thing.

For those of us who have been using various web tools to publish online for many years now without any notable space constraints, it's a puzzling trend to say the least. Why would you put your thoughts in a format and on a platform that was not at all designed for longer form writing, makes it hard for others to link and respond, and risks a loss of ownership or availability of that content later on (for starters)? I've expanded on these concerns in posts like Owning our digital homes, and made light of them in my own tweets.

But we know that the most elegant and flexible practices don't always win out over ones that are popular or compelling in other ways. So I'm trying to resist the temptation to be entirely dismissive of tweetstorming, especially as I see people call out why they prefer it over blogging: they're more likely to follow up on a conversation on Twitter than they are to check back on an individual blog's comment thread, they like the immediacy and wide distribution of Twitter, they like being able to respond to single thoughts one tweet at a time, and so on.

That said, I still see tweetstorming as a disconcerting trend for the realm of publishing and discussion online. In a time where we need more clarity of thinking, constructive dialog and interactions that don't shy away from details, nuance and truth-seeking, tweetstorms seem like a move in the wrong direction.

So what to do about it?

Continue reading Beyond Tweetstorming

Getting started owning your digital home

My recent post about owning our digital homes prompted some good feedback and discussion. When I talk about this topic with the people in my life who don't work daily in the world of websites, domain names and content management, the most common reaction I get is, "that's sounds good in theory, I'm not sure where to start in practice."

So, here are some of the basic things that pretty much anyone can do to get started having and owning your digital home.

Find a domain name

On the Internet, your domain name is the root of your digital existence. It's the address on your home, your entry in the phonebook, the shingle you hang out so that anyone and everyone can find you. While the domain name system (DNS) has changed a lot over the years, it's still the starting point for establishing a long-term presence on the Internet that you control, independent of other tools, services and providers you might use.

My domain name is "" It's not only the URL/address of my website, but it's the domain where my primary email address lives. Whatever content management tool might power my website at any given time, and whatever server my email might live on or whatever email program I might use to read messages, I will always have my domain name to point me and others to those places.

Having a domain name is relatively inexpensive; in most cases it's $10-15/year, less if you register it for multiple years at a time. When I see people who pick email addresses derived from their Internet Service Provider (e.g. Comcast, Verizon) or from some free online email provider like Gmail, and then see the time it takes them to inform friends, co-workers and family when they change that address to something else, I know it's worth those few dollars to have a consistent address that doesn't change unless I want it to, and that doesn't depend on someone else's business model to exist at all.

In my opinion, your domain name should be something personalized, but not so specific to where you live, how you make a living, or what you find interesting right now that it will become outdated when you move to a new place, change jobs or update your interests. Your domain name doesn't even need to mean anything at all, as long as it's memorable enough for you and the people you share it with. If you're having trouble finding a domain name you like, this generator will help with some ideas.

Continue reading Getting started owning your digital home

Owning our digital homes

Over the course of my life, I've built few things that reside permanently in the physical world. There's a small foot-bridge over a winding creek a few miles from where I live that I helped to bolt together. There's a school building in southern Alabama whose ceiling joists I helped frame in. I weathered a few splinters to help build the deck on our house. A few half-finished knitting projects linger. I've installed a window here, hammered some metal in a forge there.

Beyond these and some similarly inconsequential offerings, most of my life's work and creations have come in the form of things published in the digital world: essays, photos, lines of code, blog posts, songs, podcasts, and database rows. Where a carpenter might wander the streets of his city admiring the houses he built, I must wander the hard drives, websites, .zip/.tar archives and code repositories of my world to remember what I've created.

Where these digital products of my life and work reside, who has control of and ownership over them, and how long they might persist is important to me.

This is why I try to use this site,, along with a few other carefully chosen services to make up my digital home. It's part of why I love WordPress as a tool for publishing. And it's why I worry about others who take for granted that the digital things they create will always be there, accessible, under their control, searchable/viewable in a way that makes sense to them.

Continue reading Owning our digital homes

I'm joining Automattic

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgbOne of the main reasons I get excited about Internet technologies is that they amplify the power of the written word and other kinds of creative publishing. Modern online tools enable bloggers, software developers, poets, journalists, novelists, chefs, filmmakers, marketers, photographers, artists, scientists, organizers and many other kinds of people to bring their creations to the world, at a constantly decreasing cost. And even through all of the cultural transformations we've seen spurred on by the Internet, the power of the written word remains - publishing can still change minds, start movements, spark connections, capture beauty, reshape lives.

Next week I'm joining Automattic, Inc., the company that makes WordPress, runs, and provides a bunch of other publishing-related tools and services. I'm joining the VIP team as a full-time VIP Wrangler, where I'll be helping to provide support, hosting, training, and other services to some of the biggest and best WordPress sites on the web (NY Times, TED, CNN, Time and more).

There are many reasons I'm excited about this, including:

Continue reading I'm joining Automattic