These days on GitHub I come across projects like CodeEdit and AFFiNE which have the disclaimer I’ve seen one too many times. It’s usually preceded by a warning emoji and mentions that it’s super alpha and not ready for production use. Browsing through public projects, it starts to become funny how common it is.

Some are clones of existing products that end up getting lots of stars on GitHub for no reason other than being the open source alternative of that product. I bet 98% of people don’t even go as far as cloning the repo, let alone running it. Maybe glancing at the name, the README, and the live demo, if there is one. What do the stars really mean, then?

Some projects are doomed to remain in alpha but provide a hopeful glimpse at a brighter future.

There’s no conclusion here, just my thoughts while browsing GitHub.

GitHub is full of alpha projects

I wasn’t sure what direction to take my online writing recently. Was I writing stuff worth reading? Are the topics too mixed? What should I write next?

I decided to go through every blog I have bookmarked and list out the characteristics of the ones I feel drawn to, the ones that I eagerly await their next post, as well as the characteristics of the ones I don’t care about. I want my own blog to be in the former category, so I was curious how its characteristics compared to these two lists.

The blogs that I genuinely enjoy reading have the following in common:

  • the websites are uniquely designed by the writer themselves (no template or default themes)
  • analyses go to a depth that many don’t dare to reach
  • they counter popular perspectives
  • they offer a perspective that may cause a reader to change their own
  • they share life lessons
  • they exhibit an intense attention to detail in everything they do
  • authentic and unapologetic
  • the people behind them feel human and it’s obvious who is wriring
  • they are not overly focused on a single topic, but the background they’re coming from is clear

The ones I do not feel drawn to:

  • use a default or overused theme on whatever blogging medium they’re on
  • focus on too specific of a topic and never venture outside that topic
  • are trying too hard (to be funny, to be something)
  • make frequent, small posts that takes less than a few minutes to read
  • post way too often
  • have a poorly designed or confusing to navigate website (often because they’re trying too hard to make it look cool)
  • too professional
  • look like a web app? lol
  • talk too much about abstract topics or ideals that don’t manifest in reality
  • set in Times New Roman
  • too commercial
  • too much like a résumé

After doing this, I feel clarity on what keeps me coming back for the pleasure of reading.

Characteristics of blogs I genuinely en…

There’s a kind of free tier that I appreciate when products have. It’s when the free tier has a quota, that if you stay below, you don’t pay anything. Even better, it’s when that quota is related to how likely you are to be making money yourself when exceeding that limit.

For example, Buttondown is a newsletter software, and you don’t pay if you have less than 100 subscribers. This is perfect because it gives people who are just starting out the freedom to experiment for a while, without worrying about going broke. On the other hand, those with thousands of subscribers, most likely making money off it, pay their fair share.

For not an example, in you currently have to pay to get started, no matter how little you write or how small of an audience you have. This isn’t the worst, because you are paying the tool, and if that tool keeps improving, even paying a subscription makes sense. But there’s some hesitation if every tool asks to pay like this. It’s hard to experiment when you don’t have a lot of money.

Products that make money when the people using them make money, and that don’t ask for money if the people using them don’t make any, have a fair pricing model that allows breathing space to figure out to how succeed using that product.

Of course, not every product has a natural quota to measure. It’s something I’m going to deliberate carefully when pricing my own products.

Let me make money first

For the longest time, I didn’t have any analytics on my websites. I didn’t know where visitors came from. In fact, I didn’t know if there were visitors at all.

Google Analytics has given web analytics a bad rep, for many reasons, but there are solutions out there now that respect privacy, don’t slow down your website, and are pleasant to use. From my research, Fathom, Plausible, and Simple Analytics are the most modern and popular as of today. There are similar products that have been around for a long time. They’re probably just as good, just not as sleek.

At the time of writing, Fathom seems to be the original privacy-friendly analytics that is cheapest per traffic and has the sleekest UI, Plausible is a clone that has more features and a less elegant UI, and I'm not sure about Simple Analytics since I didn’t want to spend time trying a third one. The formula for these are standard and there’s not too much new after the second one.

I’m excited to see what blog posts are the most popular, and to see what content doesn’t really matter.

Analytics aren’t evil — 2023.02.28