a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

bearblog is cool

I was starting to lose hope that I'd find a blog platform that meets all my requirements, but bearblog is almost there. There are two small things I wish were different, but they're by no means deal-breakers, and this is the only site I've found that even comes close. Here is a numbered list:

1. Free, no ads

I'm broke and don't like ads :( Sorry. I'll donate when I can

2. Not self-hosted

See #1

3. Lightweight, stylesheets I don't hate, markdown

Interestingly, this item is actually three things

4. RSS feed

In case anyone wants to use an RSS feed.

5. No interactivity or metrics

This one gets a half-point. There is a "stats" page that shows page views and stuff, but it's well-hidden enough that I'll probably never think to look at it. I wish it was possible to disable it entirely (wishlist item #1 of 2) because I want no information about who's looking at my site except the people who choose to e-mail me. The more information I have about how unpopular my posts are, the less I want to post. But most importantly, there are no comments, likes, reblogs, pingbacks, subscriber numbers, anything I can look at to form an impression of what people think of what I write

You see, my brain is broken. My main word dump for the last few years has been mastodon, but lately I've found myself feeling bad when I use it. Not nearly as bad as birdsite, zuckhole or yellbox, but still not great

When I make a post, and it doesn't immediately get any likes boosts or replies, my brain makes me think everyone hates me. Now, obviously I know this is illogical, there are a lot of reasons a post might not get any interactions: I might have posted it when no one who follows me is looking at their feed. It might have zipped past in the public feed so quickly that no one saw it. Often I don't even put my posts on the public timeline. It might have a content warning people don't want to click on. It might just not be of particular interest to them. Or it could be because it's my 10,000th consecutive joke how bad smartphones are, seriously shut the fuck up and try to think of something pleasant for once in your miserable life

That last one probably isn't usually the case, because other people are paying a lot less attention to myself than I do. But sometimes I make a post that does get a lot of "positive" attention, and as it propagates and federates, seeing the stream of validation gives me a bunch of serotonin or dopamine or whatever the brain chemical is that makes me want more of it. But that doesn't last forever, and it doesn't happen often, and when it doesn't happen, I start thinking of a million reasons why people might be sick of me, and no matter how much I know all of the other reasons it might not take off, it's a feeling I can't logic my way out of

Now of course, this doesn't happen with every post I make. If it's just "hey here's a link to a cool thing" or "look at this cat" I'm not invested in it. But if it's something I feel good about, e.g. a joke I was really proud of or what I thought was an insightful observation, and it just sits there, unremarked-upon, I can't help but feel like the silence is deafening

However, sometimes I get a kind email or a direct message out of the blue, and whenever that happens, it feels really special. I never expect it, because someone had to go out of their way to do it. With a social media post, the like button is right there, why is no one clicking on it, what the fuck is wrong with me? I thought the joke was good, why can't I get one measly like?! (disclaimer: I am ashamed of this paragraph)

Conversely, when I see a post, the reply button is right there. And there's nothing stopping me from clicking reply and typing whatever dumb shit popped into my head when I read it. If this is directed to a specific person, maybe I can get a pity like! I just need one and I'm good for at least an hour, I swear

And I'm increasingly concerned that it's impossible to have a meaningful discussion on a social network, even one as relatively relaxed as the fediverse. It set out to be a healthy alternative to twitter, but unfortunately it didn't not copy twitter enough. It still has a lot of the bad stuff. People can't make their points properly, not even with twice as many characters. Sometimes two people who agree 100% about something can talk right past each other because each one has slightly different assumptions about the bounds of the conversation. One person's friendly banter is another's hostile sarcasm. One person's affable reminder is another's condescension. You exchange message after message, but you can never quite express exactly how you feel with awkward sentences edited for an arbitrary character limit instead of for clarity, and by the end you both feel like shit for no reason and you wonder why in god's name you wasted that much time on something you hate so much

This is great for a website like twitter, whose business model is "show people the worst things on the internet so they hate themselves and everyone, so they start pointless fights with strangers, and make sure people reward them with likes so they keep doing it". The amount of "engagement" grows factorially, twitter makes a million dollars and everyone involved wonders why they keep doing this. They're so tired

Mastodon is better than twitter, with content warnings, chronological feeds, robust muting/blocking tools, smaller communities, and (as long as your instance has a well-curated blocklist) better people in general, but I still can't handle it. Not all the time. I'm not going to stop using it completely. But I'm going to delete the app from my phone and scale it back. Most of the kind of posting that makes me anxious, I'm going to put here instead. If you're reading this and you like it, feel free to e-mail me at this subdomain @ protonmail, or maybe even throw a couple bucks into my ko-fi cup if you're wearing a top hat and/or smoking an exquisite tobacco cigar1

Bearblog does technically have a "like" button. It's called "toast", so if you like what you read you can toast a post, which is very cute, but not what I'm looking for at the moment. Luckily, the toast button only appears if you post to the public feed, and you're able to opt out. This brings me to the second of my two wishlist items, which is that "show in feed" is always checked by default when you make a new post. I wish there was a setting to make it unchecked by default so I don't ever accidentally post to the feed and open myself up to the horror of hypothetical public scrutiny.

Overall, I'm glad I found this site, because every blogging platform either (a) assumes you want to make money from it, so it has a bunch of cruft to help boost engagement and get ad views, the opposite of what I want; (b) assumes that since you're some weirdo who doesn't like money, you want to self-host (see #1 and #2) and run some godforsaken command line program that takes a bunch of megadrive ROMs and uses a magic ruby to somehow turn them into webpages; or (c) isn't a blogging platform at all, but is actually pastebin.com

6. Good mobile interface

It's pretty good

7. Conclusion

Thanks for reading my obligatory inaugural "I'm just blogging about blogging" post. Please look forward to the traditional second post, "Haha wow I haven't thought about this blog in 6 months. Crazy. Anyway I'll definitely start blogging more again", at which point the project will be complete 🦝


  1. Particularly if you lit the cigar with a hundred-dollar bill. If you can afford to do that, and I know you can, Zachary, you can afford to light it 90% as extravagantly and send me whatever 10% of a hundred dollars is. Also hey, footnotes!↩

#status #personal