Codename: Svbtle

A couple of months ago, after being irritated by the complexity and uninspiring nature of most blogging platforms, I decided to build my own solution to power It is codenamed Svbtle [1]. The first interface I built just contained a simple list of articles with a “new post” form, like almost every other blogging management system ever created, but it has slowly evolved into something that has hugely improved the quality of my thinking and writing.

Thinking #

This is the management interface (click to enlarge):

The management interface has evolved to organize posts like my brain does; there are two states: an idea and a published article. When I have an idea, no matter how developed, I throw it into the ideas pane. This creates a physical scrapboard for organizing my thoughts. I work on ideas over time, and, when one of them becomes developed or good enough, I’ll publish it and it’ll move over into the published column.

This interface doesn’t force me into thinking about ideas as posts, like every other blogging system does. I don’t have to sit down and think about a title and content, and I’m not expected to publish immediately. The disconnection between draft ideas and published posts makes a big subconscious difference. It allows ideas to start abstractly, to ruminate for a while, and then, as I work on them, to become more and more concrete until they’re ready to be published as articles. The side effect of this is that ideas I would never have written down before now become fully developed posts. It has hugely surprised me.

Writing #

This is the new post interface (click to enlarge) [2]:

This is the editing interface after some amount of writing, showing a post I have been working on for a while that isn’t quite ready yet, called The Best (click to enlarge):

When I’m writing, I want to have no distractions, so I removed all of them. When I have control over the visual style of my posts, I tend to take it a bit too far, which hinders the quality of my actual writing and prevents me from publishing. So I removed all styling options; Markdown and some restricted HTML are the only tools for styling posts. One of my main goals for this new writing interface was to encourage myself to spend more time writing and less time presenting.

The bottom bar contains the four main actions I usually want to perform on a post: preview/share, options, status, and the commit button. Hidden under “options” are things like being able to manually specify a permalink and to change the publish date.

The Svbtle Network #

Other than a simple settings area, all of the features of Svbtle are described above. That’s it. It really is the essence of blogging; there are no plugins, no post types, and no social bullshit. Each post has one unusual feedback mechanism which has no external repercussions: Kudos (see the right side of each post on any of the network blogs).

I wrote this engine entirely for myself, without the intention of opening it up to other people. But since realizing that it has improved the way I think and write, I’ve decided to open it up to a small number of vetted bloggers. At least at first. The goal is simple: when you see the Svbtle design, you should know that the content is guaranteed to be great. Network bloggers are encouraged to keep quality high at the expense of everything else.

The Svbtle Network is an experiment that brings some of the best things from newspapers (editing, vetting, etc) to a network of independent bloggers. It is focused on the writing, the news, and the ideas. Everything else is secondary.

Check it out:

And, of course, you should follow me on Twitter here.


[1]. I’m having a lot of trouble coming up with a good name/domain. Any ideas?.

[2]. in general, I don’t use this view; I start posts on the manage screen with the quick-add area at the top of the Ideas list.


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