(2021-01-13) Doctorow Pluralistic 20 Years A Blogger

Pluralistic: 13 Jan 2021 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow. 20 years a blogger

It's been twenty years, to the day, since I published my first blog-post.

It's been almost exactly a year I left Boing Boing, after 19 years.

A few weeks after I quit Boing Boing, I started a solo project. It's called Pluralistic: it's a blog that is published simultaneously on Twitter, Mastodon, Tumblr, a newsletter and the web. It's got no tracking or ads.

I don't often do "process posts" but this merits it. Here's how I built Pluralistic and here's how it works today, after nearly a year.

I spend the next 1-2 hours winnowing through all the stuff that seems important.

After a couple hours, I'm left with 3-4 tabs that I want to write articles about that day.

First I go through these tabs and think up metadata tags I want to use for each; I type these into the template using my text-editor (gedit)

Each post has its own little template. It needs an anchor tag (for this post, that's "hfbd"), a title ("20 years a blogger") and a slug ("Reflections on a lifetime of reflecting"). I fill these in for each post. Then I come up with a graphic for each post

See that tag in there for frnklogo.jpg? I snuck that in while I was composing this in Twitter. When I locate an image on the web I want to use in a post, I save it to a dir on my desktop that syncs every 60 seconds to the /images/ dir on my webserver.

Once the thread is complete, I copy each tweet back into gedit, tabbing back and forth, replacing

My composition is greatly aided both 20 years' worth of mnemonic slurry of semi-remembered posts and the ability to search memex.craphound.com (the site where I've mirrored all my Boing Boing posts) easily. A huge, searchable database of decades of thoughts really simplifies the process of synthesis.

Next I port the posts to other media. I copy the headline and paste it into a new Tumblr compose tab

Next I past the whole post into a Mastodon compose field

Then I hit publish on my Twitter thread.

And once you hit publish, you can't edit it. Forever. So you want to publish Twitter threads last, because the process of mirroring them to Tumblr and Mastodon reveals typos and mistakes

Now I create a draft WordPress post on pluralistic.net

Once all the day's posts are done, I make sure to credit all my sources in another part of that master XML file, and then I flip to the command line and run a bunch of python scripts that do magic: formatting the master file as a newsletter, a blog post, and a master thread.

a reader – Loren Kohnfelder – wrote to me to point out bugs in the site's RSS. He offered to help with text automation and we embarked on a month of intensive back-and-forth as he wrote a custom suite for me.

Part of the problem is that each day's Twitter master thread has a tweet with a link to the day's Mastodon master thread ("Are you trying to wean yourself off Big Tech? Follow these threads on the #fediverse at @pluralistic@mamot.fr. Here's today's edition: LINK").

Now it's time to get ready for tomorrow. I open up the master XML template file and overwrite my daily working file with its contents

Then I compose tomorrow's retrospective links. I open tabs for this day a year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, and (now) 20 years ago:

So, why do I do all this?

First and foremost, I do it for me

And I do it for the causes I believe in. There's stuff in this world I want to change for the better.

Though I had popular Twitter and Tumblr accounts, they are at the mercy of giant companies with itchy banhammers and arbitrary moderation policies.

I'd long been a fan of the POSSE.

Pluralistic posts start out as Twitter threads because that's the most constrained medium I work in, but their permalinks (each with multiple hidden messages in their slugs) are anchored to a server I control.

I grew up in the back-rooms of print shops where my dad and his friends published radical newspapers, laying out editions with a razor-blade and rubber cement on a light table. Today, I spend hours slicing up ASCII with a cursor.

I go through my old posts every day. I know that much – most? – of them are not for the ages. But some of them are good. Some, I think, are great. They define who I am. They're my outboard brain.

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