Hello (Again) to Svbtle
A refuge for the modern blogger
I left Svbtle 4 years ago, seeking greener pastures on other platforms. The landscape of blogging was different then; still nourishing, still hopeful.
Today, blogging as we knew it has been largely subsumed—along with traditional news—into monolithic castles of content.
They have their perks, and I still believe that great content transcends platforms, but as the industry of personal blogging collapses in on itself, my desires have changed. Where I once sought community, I now seek individuality. In place of power, I want permanence.
All of this has brought me, hat in hand, back to Svbtle.
What Matters in a Platform
Over those same four years, I discovered a deep-seated appreciation for companies and services that temper their progress with patience. The Basecamps and Things of the world.
Svbtle made a promise to bloggers: it promised to stick around. While the web is a brittle platform for promises, the gesture is more than I’ve seen others make.
In the four years since I left, very little has changed. Things have surely improved behind the scenes, but there have been no pivots, no drastic re-thinking, nothing. Just steady, measured execution.
It’s the Kindle of blogging platforms: do one thing perfectly, invisibly well.
I should briefly anticipate questions about other platforms by summarizing my research: blogging platforms suck.
In a few more words:
- WordPress is great if you need ultimate flexibility, extensibility, and a vast community of resources available to help you tweak and polish. It’s quick if you know your way around server administration or throw money at a good managed host.
- Ghost isn’t as extensible but runs cheaper and is more focused on publishing. It still allows for too much tweaking for me though; when I can fiddle, I tend to be tempted to do that instead of write.
- Medium still doesn’t know what it is or who it’s for. After a year of suffering more than 40 separate instances of downtime (ranging from 5 to 45 minutes in length), I gave up on the whole custom-URL-publication approach to publishing on Medium—and, as it turns out, so did they.
- Squarespace is bafflingly inept at catering to dedicated bloggers.
- Kirby, Jekyll, and the rest of the flat-file brigade are lean, fiddly, and more demanding in terms of technical knowledge.
I could make any of the above work, and at different times in my blogging career, I have. But I appreciate environments that foster focus, and on Svbtle I feel well-equipped to keep my attention on writing.
Svbtle does a lot of things right for the modern blogger:
- It’s fast
- It supports RSS feeds (with FeedBurner integration) and email subscriptions
- It supports link posts
- It supports custom URLs and makes sure they’re served over HTTPS
- It’s a paid service ($6/month), so you’re not the product
As I settle in, I’ve been in touch with Svbtle about smoothing out some wrinkles in the platform:
- Image handling needs work, especially in terms of displaying images with less compression and allowing for more layout options. I’ve had to leave a few of my photo essay posts on Medium for the time being because they just can’t be re-created here.
- Navigation is weak, with very few opportunities for discovery and limited avenues for exploration; there’s no Archive, no tags/categories, no search.
- I wish the post editor reflected the formatting, not in rich text terms like you’d get in a word processor, but with subtle cues like you get in iA Writer and Ulysses so you get confirmation that your Markdown syntax is correct without having to preview the post.
There are no theming options beyond colour and icon, no meaningful settings, and you can only tweak as far as inline CSS and HTML will go—not far, but far enough for me.
I’m pleased to say that they’ve been responsive and receptive to my feedback so far, and I look forward to steady improvements.
Svbtle is the perfect blend of ease and individuality for my needs, and I’m glad to be back.