In one of the most apropos uses of a .blog domain, Refined.blog is a new website that promotes personal blogging with a curated list of software engineering blogs. It’s a simple site with an index of blogs, their Hacker News scores, tags, and a link to each blog’s RSS feed. The search function is very fast and applies to all columns in the index (with the exception of the feed URL). Columns can be ordered alphabetically, by tag, or by HN points.
“Experience is gold,” Refined.blog creator Musa Ünal wrote in the site’s introduction. “There are many different social media platforms on the internet but we need personal blogs again. It’s hard to find blogs so let’s create this blog list together!”
It’s true – discovering new blogs isn’t easy. If you’re not following the right people on Twitter or don’t happen to be around when a person links to their posts on social media, then you are usually out of luck. Personal blogs are often not very well optimized for search and can get lost in the haystack.
Google Search doesn’t provide a way to narrow results to personal blogs. The Wiby search engine is about the closest you can get for searching these types of websites, although it seems to be limited to older style pages that are based on one subject of interest. Wiby uses Microsoft Bing’s search results combined with Wiby.me results without sending your IP and user agent to Microsoft. Wiby’s about page explains the problem that sites like Refined.blog are aiming solve:
In the early days of the web, pages were made primarily by hobbyists, academics, and computer savvy people about subjects they were personally interested in. Later on, the web became saturated with commercial pages that overcrowded everything else. All the personalized websites are hidden among a pile of commercial pages. Google isn’t great at finding them, its focus is on finding answers to technical questions, and it works well; but finding things you didn’t know you wanted to know, which was the real joy of web surfing, no longer happens. In addition, many pages today are created using bloated scripts that add slick cosmetic features in order to mask the lack of content available on them. Those pages contribute to the blandness of today’s web.
The Wiby search engine is building a web of pages as it was in the earlier days of the internet.
Refined.blog brings more exposure to some of these single-person curated websites. Its creator, Musa Ünal, is considering branching out from an index of software engineering blogs to separate indexes for different topics.
“For example, I am big fan of history bloggers, but it’s very hard to find these kinds of blogs,” he said in response to a question on Hacker News. “If you know such of blogs, please contribute to the project. If we have enough bloggers listed, we can create subdomains like history.refined.blog or art.refined.blog.”
Hacker News comments on the project range from people discovering RSS for the first time and looking for reader recommendations, to people returning to RSS to get their news after becoming jaded by news algorithms and social media platforms. Other commenters shared that they, too, maintain their own lists of curated blogs. Refined.blog used some existing Engineering and Security blog lists as sources for the index.
“I love this,” one person commented on Hacker News. “I’m in the ultrarunning community and I love reading everyone’s blog posts/trip reports/race reports/adventures. But everyone stopped updating them over the past 5 years or so. Now that sort of thing is just an Instagram photo with a paragraph or two. The depth and character of those old blog posts have been lost. I wish in depth blog posts would come back, but in reality, I don’t think they are.”
Another commenter echoes the sentiments of others who have given up on promoting their blogs in the age of social media:
I’ve completely given up on promoting my stuff. It used to be very easy and straightforward. Like minded folks could find new stuff without a problem. Nowadays, there’s just way too much content, the vast majority of very low effort, and you get lost in the noise immediately.
For example, I have an old blog post that got featured in podcasts, on dailyjs, HN, is linked to from MDN, etc. When I wrote it in 2014 I pretty much just submitted it to Reddit, that’s it. Nowadays I couldn’t recreate that exposure — or even a tiny fraction of it — if my life depended on it.
Regardless of whether the site takes off or not, I think it’s important to catalog these attempts to restore the magic of that earlier era where websites offered a real window into people’s knowledge and interests. It may not look the same as many of us remember the old school “vintage” internet, but the blogosphere will continue to evolve as long as bloggers at heart keep experimenting with projects like this. So much of this style of writing has gone to email newsletters, but content that lives publicly on the web has a longer life cycle that can be rejuvenated through linked conversations. Writers can and should be able to embrace both methods of distribution.
Refined.blog is hosted on GitHub and is open to feature suggestions and contributions. One person submitted an issue, suggesting the site add one or more OPML feed links so people can subscribe to all or some of the blogs at once. Ünal said he is working on making an OMPL export for selected blogs.