Chris Hannah

Request for feedback on a potential newsletter

I’ve been thinking about my blog, how I write posts, and also about having some form of newsletter. So I asked a few quetions earlier via Mastodon, so I could get a better understanding of how people consume my blog, and their feelings on a potential newsletter.

Please feel free to vote on any of the polls, and if you have any feedback that you want to tell me, then you can do so on Mastodon, Twitter, or via email directly.

"I didn't pay for Twitter Blue"

As I mentioned in my recent post regarding Twitter's blue checkmarks, the situation is getting even more messy now that Twitter seems to be reinstating the checkmarks for some popular accounts.

TechCrunch - Twitter reinstates Blue verification mark for top accounts — even if they didn’t pay for it:

After removing thousands of legacy verification checkmarks on April 20, Twitter is restoring the Blue tick marks for large accounts — even if they didn’t pay for subscriptions

Over the weekend, multiple top accounts (with more than 1 million followers) got their verification marks back. However, many of them, including writer Neil Gaiman, footballer Riyad Mahrez, musician Lil Nas X, actress Janel Parrish Long and British TV presenter Richard Osman said that they didn’t pay for the blue badge.

Wasn't the idea that Twitter Blue democratizes the blue checkmark/verified status?

Blue checkmarks

It's incredible to see the effect of the various recent changes on how the "blue checkmarks" are given out, and what they seemingly represent to different demographics of people.

Before the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk, my rough idea of a blue checkmark was an indicator to say that an account was who it said they were. Although typically only popular accounts and pop culture celebrities were the main beneficiaries of this option. I'd argue that this is probably how most people felt.

I'd also argue that the blue checkmark was something that people would have liked to have on their accounts. Because it seemed to be given to a limited group of people, there was a kind of status associated with it.
Now, it seems to represent all sorts of things to people.

Essentially down to two changes - firstly that it (mostly[1]) isn't given out based on status or popularity, and secondly that you have to pay for it, as it now comes as part of a Twitter Blue subscription.

There are certainly other parts of the Twitter Blue deal, and I'm personally trying them out myself[2]. But for most people, it seems as if the view is that all you're really paying for is the checkmark. Which I guess is probably true for some people. And to others, it's not as important.

Based on my earlier view on what the checkmark meant, before it was freely[3] available, I think it's good that people can verify themselves[4]. But there certainly seems to be an issue with the perceived status of having the checkmark.

What I personally find odd, is how celebrities are using the "well I'm not paying for my checkmark" angle to somehow virtue signal. Although I would estimate that some of that is probably a masked dig at Elon Musk, rather than the specifics of having a verified account or not.

I can't say I really care what the checkmark means. But this whole situation has seemed to have spawned a bunch of little internet tribes, and it's a bit boring, to be honest.

I briefly saw some of the #BlockTheBlue nonsense the other day on Twitter, and for a while, people on Mastodon couldn't seem to utter the T-word. It all seems a bit childish to me[5].

Right now, I guess, we all just have to adjust to what the blue checkmark now represents. And typically, it's that a user has subscribed to Twitter Blue, and has at the very least, verified their phone number.

When you think about it, isn't it odd that only a certain group of people were able to get verified accounts anyway?

  1. There seem to be cases at the moment where either Elon himself or Twitter is activating Twitter Blue (or maybe just the checkmark) for some accounts. I guess to some this may be funny, I just find it a tad weird, to be honest. ↩︎

  2. I'll probably write about this soon, but I can't say I've noticed a big difference at the moment in how I used Twitter before and after I signed up for Twitter Blue. ↩︎

  3. You know what I mean. ↩︎

  4. Even if it just means associating a phone number with an account, and having it go through some kind of validation on their end. ↩︎

  5. From all sides. ↩︎

Most websites should be served statically

I've had this thought for quite some time, and it's that most websites don't need to be served dynamically. For example, most blogs that are powered by WordPress or Ghost will dynamically fetch the relevant content and build the page every time a visitor visits a URL[1].

There's nothing stopping sites from being built dynamically, using centrally stored content, and various templates that can be put together to build a complex website. It should just happen once, and then the generated static content can be efficiently served again and again, until the source content changes, and triggers it to be rebuilt.

This is much more relevant for blogs since the content on the page doesn't change, except for possibly a web font, or a JavaScript snippet for analytics or an advert. However, these are usually externally sourced, and won't affect the static HTML code that can be served to your users[2].

This may sound a bit ironic, since my blog currently runs on Ghost, and serves content dynamically[3]. Although, I am working towards a solution for that, by building my own static site generator, Arbok.

  1. Yes, I'm sure some people have a caching mechanism installed, but I wouldn't say it's everyone, and it really masks a problem rather than fixing one. ↩︎

  2. Another benefit of this, is that you can bundle together resources into a final .html file, such as any CSS styles. Which reduces the number of requests the browser needs to make when visiting your page. ↩︎

  3. Although if you have a look at your browsers web inspector, you'll find that I've already done some work to reduce the size of my website. ↩︎

The iPhone 15 Pro: Overengineered Buttons for Absolutely No Reason

Tim Hardwick, for MacRumors:

The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max will use a new ultra-low energy microprocessor allowing certain features like the new capacitive solid-state buttons to remain functional even when the handset is powered off or the battery has run out...

For a while, I've been thinking that the iPhone may be my next phone. I thought they'd refine a few things, and also switch to USB C finally. But the idea of these "new capacitive solid-state buttons" make me think otherwise.

The user ersan191 posted comment on the post, which I think mirrors my thoughts on the recent "improvements" to the iPhone:

Seems like they are running out of things to overengineer at this point.

Engineers Should Write

Ryan Peterman on Engineers needing to write:

The way I worked started to change around when I became a mid-level engineer. I led a small workstream of a few engineers and to get my work done, I was writing more and more without realizing it. Soon writing became a significant part of my work outside of coding. This became even more true when COVID hit since most conversations moved to async chats and word docs.

Almost everything software engineers do requires writing. We need to write when we ask technical questions, comment on code reviews, or create design docs. This is because writing software is collaborative. The better you are at writing, the more effective you will be at building software.

Being a software engineer and a writer, my opinion is likely biased in favour of this opinion. However, I have noticed that as I have progressed in my job, I have found writing to also be much more important. Whether it's writing documentation, reviewing code, planning features, analysing future architecture, or even just helping other engineers. There's a huge benefit to being able to write clearly, and to be able to explain your thoughts to your future self, and others.

I wrote about this last year when I talked about having a culture of writing at work. I won't repeat everything here, but here are the five benefits I said come from a good culture of writing:

Having an Advert on my Blog

I've had a single advert on my blog for quite a few years now, and while it tends to average out to make the blog sustainable—as in it covers the hosting costs—but it's still an advert, and adverts (in my opinion) are ugly.

For some transparency, over the last 12 months, the single advert on my blog has brought in $179.89 which works out just below $15 a month on average. The running costs of this blog are $14.40 a month ($12 plus VAT). I  also have an automatic backup that adds on a few extra dollars, but that's more for my peace of mind than being absolutely necessary.

Here's a detailed breakdown of the last 12 (full) months:

Month Impressions Clicks Earnings
February 2023 5,549 8 $5.97
January 2023 7,342 9 $9.8
December 2022 8,508 11 $13.95
November 2022 11,433 21 $22.86
October 2022 6,718 19 $9.34
September 2022 7,938 12 $13.52
August 2022 6,000 7 $9.95
July 2022 10,074 17 $16.84
June 2022 9,409 23 $17.57
May 2022 11,930 35 $17.13
April 2022 10,657 24 $19.08
March 2022 11,980 18 $23.88

I don't know how much a typical blog brings in via advertising, so I don't know if this is coming from a priviledged position or not. But the whole time I've had an advert on my website, I've wanted to remove it.

As you may have noticed, the design of my blog changes quite regularly. But I tend to always come back to very minimal styling, with an emphasis on the actual words. So the advert, while small, still sticks out.

When I view blogs like Manual Moreale, Craig Mod, Brent Simmons, or Riccardo Mori, it makes me want to slim down the design of mine.

It's not just the advert at the bottom of the page either, I go through these thoughts with all types of parts of my blogs design. Something else I've toyed with removing is the date below the post title. That may seem silly, but it's not typically essential when reading a post on my blog, so should it be there?

I could go on to say the same about the navigation links in the footer, the copyright text, the weird request to "buy me a coffee" if you enjoyed a post, etc.

Ironically, I could go and really minimalise my blog right now, removing everything apart from the title, navigation, title, and post content. But in a few months time, I'd slowly start to add it back.

Note: I have now slightly "minimalised" the design of my blog since writing this. Although as mentioned on Mastodon, there's still further I can go.

I'll Read It

Manual Moreale is a very good advocate for writing a blog, and has offered to help people to start writing by offering them a reader to start them off:

I'll read it. If you decide to start a blog in either English or Italian, I'll read it. I don't care about the topic. Start a blog, write something, send it to me, and I'll read it. And you'll have your first reader. If you add an RSS feed to your blog, I'll add you to my reading list, and I'll keep reading what you post.

I think the internet would be a more interesting place if more people blogged, no matter if it was about a specific subject, personal experiences, or just their thoughts. So I'd like to join in on this, and say, that I too will read it.

If you want another reader for your blog, send it to me, I'll read it.

The Grand Seiko Spring Drive

I've seen Grand Seiko watches before, but I've only ever really thought about them as a dressed-up Seiko. Probably because I'd never actually researched into the unique movement that the watches have.

Personally, I'd always prefer a mechanical movement over a battery-based Quartz movement. Especially if I'm spending a decent amount of money on a watch.

However, I wasn't aware that the Grand Seiko Spring Drive was it's own unique movement. In simplistic terms, it's a combination of a mechanical and Quartz movement. However, to say it's a hybrid approach is probably not giving it the credit it deserves.

Teddy Baldassarre has made a great video that really shows the beauty of the Spring Drive movement:

A mechanical watch movement, with the accuracy of a Quartz movement? I'm starting to think that I will eventually end up owning one of these.

Edinburgh Photos February 2023

I took a small trip to Edinburgh early last week, and I decided to play around with a new lens I bought recently. I'm pretty happy with a few of the photos, although I've definitely learned a lot more about my camera and the new lens.

To cut to the chase, the camera I used was a Fujifilm X-T100, and the lens is a fully manual Meike 25mm 1.8. Getting used to the manual focus took a while, although I do appreciate a softer focus, so it never needed to be perfect.

Here are the photos I liked most from the trip: