I Switched Over To Medium Then Fear Paralyzed Me

Every time I get halfway through a post, this heavy weighing my chest and I can’t think clearly enough to complete another sentence.

A few weeks ago, I published an article announcing my switch from WordPress to Medium. It’s not a popular move, let me tell you. Most people who blog professionally (read “makes lots of money blogging”) think I’m being foolish.

But it doesn’t matter to me whether they’re wrong or they’re right, because whether search engines rank my pages isn’t my biggest problem. No, my biggest problem is that I’ve had to wrestle with myself to get anything written.

I think it’s the standard here on Medium. While not all articles contain the most brilliant words ever written, the brilliance quota on Medium is vastly superior to other platforms.

But that’s what you get when you strip away ads and flashy widgets and you center each article around actual content.

So the intelligence level is pretty high, which leads me to feel I need to go the extra mile in researching a topic before I breeze through with my latest opinion. But there’s no time to do that research, since this is not my day job. This isn’t even moonlighting. I’m moonlighting as a dad. Blogging is something I do from locked bathrooms and sitting in the car at stop signs.

It’s gotta be short and sweet, or it doesn’t get published. Which is why you’ll see more blogs about what I’m about to do or what I’m not going to do than what I’m doing. I’m processing through all the challenges of being a third string blogger.

See what I did there? I stopped writing this post long enough to go register the domain name ThirdStringBlogger.com. The name sounded too good to pass up. I’m just squatting on it for now.

So I need your help. In order to get ANY OF THE EIGHT BLOG POSTS sitting in my draft queue published, I have to be okay with the less-than-stellar form they come in. I’m just going to be me and I hope that’s okay… even here at Medium.

It’s really the only way I’ll share anything more than a State of the Blogging Union.

See you soon.

Why I Switched to Medium After 11 Years of Self-Hosted WordPress

I began my WordPress odyssey one year after Heather and I married on an island beach in the Caribbean. So when I say that I’m leaving WordPress for another CMS, a lot of emotions are involved. It’s an odd predicament, transferring my 11 year-old blog from WordPress to Medium. It feels like quitting a job in which I’ve achieved mastery in order to do something entirely fantastical and, at least in the minds of some, entirely impractical.

I want to take you briefly through the history of this site’s evolution and wrap up with some reasons why this change has potential to really work.

Phase 1: The Store & The Placeholder

In 2005 I registered CultureFeast.com with plans to create an online bookstore. A few months into research, I couldn’t find a solid e-commerce platform that I understood well enough to deploy on my own, so I set aside my dreams of “booksellerdom” and set up aWordPress blog as a placeholder.

To give you some idea of the digital landscape, this was the last year or so of MySpace supremacy. I had already been blogging on MySpace, but was enamored with the idea of monetizing my content, so I moved to my own domain.

For the next several years, I published my own thoughts and responses to pop culture, whether tv shows, music, politics, or relational patterns in society.

Phase II: The Multi-Author Experiment

I opened up CultureFeast.com to guest writers for a couple years. Six other writers produced weekly articles that kept the content fresh and diverse. But in the process, I lost my passion for the project, and eventually, I backed out.

I handed over the reins to a brilliant couple of writers who wrote mostly about architecture and foreign films until they too lost the will to press on.

Culture Feast lay silent gathering virtual dust for almost three years, until I could bear it no longer. This was my baby! I had to revive it and redeem it.

Phase III: Launching A New Mission

In 2016 I re-launched this site as a blank slate. A new logo. A new mission. And now, a new platform. You’ll find no historic content here. That has been relocated to DanielDessinger.com. You’re welcome to browse around there if you’re curious.

You might be wondering why, after getting so comfortable with the WordPress platform for eleven years, I would consider switching to a content network that will likely prioritize paying content producers over organic. While I recognize that as a legitimate possibility, I saw some glaring holes in self-hosted WordPress blogging that simply weren’t getting fixed.

3 Problems WordPress Hasn’t Fixed

  1. Self-Hosted WordPress is an island. People live and congregate on social networks, and your WordPress blog is isolated, requiring you to venture out to social networks or Google to entice people to follow you back to your home to visit.
  2. Self-Hosted WordPress has no solid answer for ongoing community. WordPress comments are left by readers and then never touched again. Someone replies a day or a week or even a year later, and the person they respond to has no idea. The conversation dies. Of course, you can install Disqus or Jetpack or Subscribe to Comments or even Postmatic on your WordPress site, but these mostly contact people via email of a comment reply. Too many sites & too many clicks involved to maintain the flow.
  3. Comment structure for WordPress is linear, and overwhelming to keep up with for popular posts. Not a solution I would consider conducive to ongoing conversation.

These issues have, over time, effectively killed the close-knit community feel for most blogs. What started as a two-way conversation hobby grew into a single-direction broadcast business. The most popular blogs are now hybrid blog/news/websites that look more like magazines and really have no intimate connection with the reader.

Blogging was historically innovative for three reasons:

  1. Anyone could publish their ideas and have a voice to the world.
  2. Anyone could respond to the author and begin a conversation about their ideas.
  3. Bloggers and readers would talk back and forth ongoing about the blogger’s ideas. There was a real sense of connection.

Medium combines the convenience of a social network with the simplicity of the simplest blog user interface on the market.

But What About Monetization? How Will You Build Your List Or Ever Sell A Product?

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that these are questions I have yet to solve.

Option A: The Subdomain

Selling a product may require a subdomain down the road — Maybe something like shop.culturefeast.com. I can create a custom CNAME with my registrar that points a subdomain to a SiteGround or Pagely hosting account. This involves more steps and gets potentially much more complicated as I then face the need to style the subdomain design to match or flow with the Medium design. It’s an option, but not one that thrills me.

Option B: The Separate Personal Domain

I have WordPress installed and in use on my “personal brand” domain, DanielDessinger.com. I can always use this website for shopping, lead generation, etc. The changing of names might confuse some, so there’s inherent risk there as well. But if we are ever going to establish our own names as brands rather than hiding behind company or optimized keyword brand names, this could be a valuable long-term play.

Option C: Harness External Third Party Software

There are plenty of softwares out there, including LeadPages and SurveyMonkey, which offer externally hosted tools for capturing emails and selling products. I don’t actually HAVE to own the space wherein I conduct my business. Renting is a serious option.

So there you go. My new experiment has begun. It requires a different mindset with unique approaches and expectations. I look forward to conversations with you about topics that truly matter.

Self-Named Domains Are Hit Or Miss

I’ve owned DanielDessinger.com for many years now. At first it was going to be a supplemental personal blog. Then it was going to be a professional show-off-my-skills blog. Then it became a simple business card with links to other sites.

Now it’s the archive of articles I’ve written across a dozen or more web properties, most of which I’ve since closed.

Think of all the people who actually publish on their name domain, and who do something significant with that space. MattCutts.com, SethGodin.Typepad.com, GaryVaynerchuk.com… There are more but I can’t recall them. So it’s easy to look at the idea of a firstnamelastname.com blog and think it’s doomed to fail, and it actually most likely will.

But then I have this picture in my mind. It’s not attached to a particular blogger, but I see someone who barely scraped together the cash to buy a single domain and some cheap HostGator hosting, and puts their heart and soul into their self-named blog. Whether they’re writing about real estate or the Addams Family really doesn’t matter. They’re writing quality, in-depth articles and evoking obvious passion in the process. Sure, it might have been easier to remember a nice brand name or any name that doesn’t come off as egocentric. But they’re putting in the work and reaping the rewards.

I am NOT that person. At least, not yet. I’ve struggled for years sharing my actual opinions and ideas in real-time on this site because of the permanent identity connection. While personal branding is a great thing for 21st century digital professionals, I’m not actually looking for work or clients or followers, but never say never. The prospect of someday getting dinged for something I wrote here is a hard pill to swallow… Theoretically.

I still have two other blogs out there in the blogosphere, but this one won’t go away simply because I’m not peddling any wares.

The Way I Prefer To Use Social

Think of this blog as an extension of my Facebook profile. If we’re FB friends, you’d know that means I share random tidbits, sarcastic self-deprecating humor, perspectives on current events, and questions on things we all share somewhat in common.

I don’t do it from my Facebook Page, because I don’t want to. That doesn’t feel authentic to who I am. I don’t need my friends and long-term acquaintances subscribing to my personal brand page so they can hear the sage wisdom and sharp wit of a guy they never cared about in high school.

Nah. I’m just me. Sharing what I share. Just in case anyone out there is curious or asks the same questions.

If so, I hope you’ll drop a comment down below and let me know.

Should You Hire A Ghostwriter to Write for Your Blog?

Someone I know recently asked a private group of bloggers the question:

When, if ever, is it appropriate to pay a ghostwriter to write for your blog?

There’s a really thought provoking article on Squawk about the subject. To summarize, there are at least three types of ghostwriters: A) people who put your ideas into their own words, B) people who take your disjointed words and form coherent ideas, and C) people who provide most of both words and ideas.

Continue reading Should You Hire A Ghostwriter to Write for Your Blog?

Comment Spammers: 2nd Time’s the Charm

There’s a new level of blog comment spam out there that’s as wonderfully clever as it is evil. Here’s how it looks:

Imagine you wrote a blog post about kola nuts. A few days later, you see this comment awaiting moderation:

“Extracts from kola nuts are great energy boosters. Couple kola nut extracts with Vitamin B complex to increase energy and stamina. In addition, this combination will enhance circulation, protein metabolism and also maintain hormone balance.”

Continue reading Comment Spammers: 2nd Time’s the Charm

Turn Your Next Vacation Into A Blogging Contest

My wife gave birth to our second child six weeks ago. Her blog has been growing in popularity all year. We knew that when the baby came, she’d have to get some rest. Blogging is just too much to ask of a mother immediately after giving birth. The Lord gave me a strategy for turning her pregnancy leave into a traffic boost.

Since I’ve built more than 20 websites on WordPress over the past few years, we opened her blog up to guest bloggers and I offered my services for free to the guest blogger that draws the most unique commentors.

Read the whole story here.

You’re the New Kid on the Block – Where’d All These Posts Come From?

Yes, we’re the new kid on the block. But I’ve been writing here and there since 2005. Several employers thought it was a good idea to remove attribution once we parted ways, so several of these archived posts have links at the end, pointing to the original versions on Archive.org.

Employers apparently don’t take into consideration the fact that Archive.org will usually get attribution correct even years later. Yes, it’s a douchey move to not give credit where credit is due. I can point to several cases where the employer did NOT remove attribution when an employee left, and it did nothing to hurt them. In fact, it caused people like me to respect them more for being secure in who they are (and in maintaining the awareness that karma is a bitch).

So that’s why we have ready-made posts. They came from my head at some point. Hope you enjoy.

Celebrating Four Years of Blogging

I missed a significant date in my history, and I can’t move on until I’ve given it 20 seconds of fame. Just over four years ago, I became a blogger.

Though I can find a few instances of “blogging” I did years before, I consider my official beginning as a blogger to be November 1, 2005. That was the day I wrote my first post for CultureFeast.com entitled, “Welcome to CultureFeast”. It was the beginning of something greater than what it was. It was the beginning of my engagement with the social Web.

Continue reading Celebrating Four Years of Blogging