Here are the steps:

  1. Go to doc.new to create a new Google Doc.
  2. Click the blue "Share" button and make the doc visible to anyone with the link.
  3. Start writing.
  4. Share the link to at least one person. That can be me, if you like.

According to many succesful bloggers, the most important thing is: just start writing, and commit to at least 30 minutes every day (including weekends).

According to me, it is perfectly acceptable to blog in a Google Doc. You can move to a "proper" platform later on.

Aside: if you mainly want to start a regular private writing habit, some people like 750words.com. Failing that... try a Google Doc!

OK, at least three people are reading my Google Doc! What now?

Make it easy for people to follow you, so that you can tell them when you have something new to read.

How to do that:

  1. Make a Twitter account and tell people to follow it.
  2. Start your newsletter in 5 seconds for $0 by creating a Google Form.

When you're ready to send your first email (it's fine if that's months or years in the future):

  • If you have less than 30 recipients, just write an email in the normal way and put the recipients in the bcc field.
  • If you have more recipients, import the list of emails you collected into MailChimp.

OK but seriously, I want to create a "proper" blog now.

Below are the best options I know about, as of summer 2022.

For all of the below:

  • Coding skills are not required.
  • Your setup time should be minutes—not hours or days.
    • I am not counting the time you may or may not choose to spend deciding on a name and colour scheme.

If you want to create your "proper" blog in less than 5 minutes:

If you want to create your "proper" blog on a flexible, future-proof and censorship resistant foundation[1]:

If you value an extremely low friction publish/edit workflow:

  • Sign up for Blot.im
  • Write your blog posts in Obsidian (or your other favourite text file editor).
  • Press the "Save" button and let Blot.im automatically and near-instantly publish the changes to your blog [2].

C.f. Blot.im setup tips

If you want to make a notes website like notes.pjh.is:

If I were starting a simple blog today, I would choose between Blot and Ghost [3].

Cool. How can I automatically send nice emails with a daily/weekly/monthly recap of things I've posted?

  1. Create a Mailbrew account
  2. Add your RSS feed
  3. Import the subscribers you collected in your Google Form or MailChimp account
  4. Share or embed your signup form.

Did this post help you start your blog? Send me the link!

See also: A quick, cheap way to make a great personal website (1-3 hours, $35 per year).


  1. Medium and Substack are good, even on the free plan. The main issue is that you're locked into the design and content moderation decisions they make. Ghost and WordPress are open source, so it'll be easy to switch to a self-hosted setup later if you don't like the way their platform evolves. The main issue with hosted Ghost and WordPress is that their paid plans are expensive, and their free plans are restricted in surprising and annoying ways (e.g. no plugins, no custom themes). ↩︎

  2. See the Blot demo video or explainer page for detail on how this works. ↩︎

  3. My main concern about Blot is that it's a bit of a one man band. This would usually be sufficient for me to reject it, but I give it a pass because (a) the creator is very talented and measures his commitment to the project in "decades" and (b) if the worst comes to pass, you'll have all your content in text files that are easy to re-publish elsewhere. ↩︎

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10 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:35 PM
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I blog using Google Docs + Google sites - I just write a Google doc, then push it into the public folder: 

hfh.pw/blog 

removing the trivial inconvenience of reformatting and hitting a publish button has definitely made me publish more posts.

Thanks for this! I'm hoping to start a future-proof personal website + blog and was looking into using Hugo w/ Github pages. What do you think of using static site generators as opposed to, say, Blot?

I played around with a few static site generators a couple years ago and was not very impressed.

The main reservations I recall (based on my experience a couple years ago) are:

  1. Steep learning curve, coding ability required.

  2. Static site ecosystem not very mature—easy to burn hours updating dependencies, resolving version conflicts, or adding fairly basic features that other platforms support out of the box. Boring, mature software is a better choice for most people than the cool new thing.

3. Build times can sometimes take minutes, not seconds [1].

  1. The performance argument in favour of static sites is not as good as people think. Anyone who is comfortable editing a Cloudflare configuration can enable Cloudflare APO to make a WordPress blog just as fast as the fastest static site setup. For other blogging platforms, one can dial up the Cloudflare cache settings to get the same effect.

  1. Blot, by contrast, takes 1-5 seconds (with no button clicks required) to publish a new post, or publish edits to existing post. ↩︎

It's very difficult to get a Hugo build time above 1 minute, even for huge sites with 1000 posts. Jekyll used to be terrible but is fine since 4.0.0. My site (200 posts) builds in 2.6 seconds.

Ah that’s great to hear. I’ll cross this out in my original comment. Thanks.

They kick ass (<3 Jekyll) but the learning curve has completely defeated several of my smart nontechnical friends.

If you have a moment, I'd be interested to hear what you like most about Jekyll / static site generators in general.

As I wrote in my comment below, I've not looked at them recently—I imagine things are better now, but I'd guess most of my reservations still hold.

For everyone:

  • Blazing fast. My site is significantly faster than e.g. Substack, and beats the ass off a Gdoc, particularly one with any comments at all. 
  • Also free
  • ~Zero SEO possible for docs
  • Looks better, esp. on mobile.
  • Can do comments, with a little ingenuity

For geeks

  • I love tinkering with it.
  • versioning
  • I like doing custom features. You can do some of these in a doc, around half.
  • Some risk of losing your google account. Probably not large for almost anyone, but it has happened to two people I know and the dependence offends my aesthetics.
  • I enjoy its near-zero attack surface

Thanks!

I don’t think Google Docs is the relevant comparison here. Google Docs is the “5 second setup time” option for people who should have started blogging yesterday, but are procrastinating partly because they think it'll take hours or days to get started. Of course, Google Docs is not a great blogging platform—the suggestion is mainly motivated by the thought "if you want someone to do a thing, make it (extremely) easy".

I’m more interested in comparing static sites with the services I listed in the “proper blog” section, above.

On speed:

  1. I don’t think that going from Substack (or even WordPress) speed to something faster matters much for a typical early stage blogger. In most cases, I'd guess that incurring any non-trivial cost to reduce this speed gap before you have thousands of monthly readers would be a case of premature optimisation. (One could make a case for investing early in things like speed for aesthetic or artisinal-type reasons, or to signal various things. I like these kinds of reasons!)

  2. If one has the tech skills to setup a static site, one can probably take the (easier) step of enabling Cloudflare and dialling up the cache settings. If you do this, all your HTML, images and static assets are cached to the Cloudflare edge, giving you similar performance to the best static site setup, no matter what platform you’re using "behind the scenes". (Cloudflare APO makes this especially easy with WordPress because it includes a plugin to handle cache invalidation in a nuanced way. For other blog platforms, you'll want to think briefly about what to do in (relatively rare?) cases where you really don't want to wait for the cache to expire. It’s fairly easy to clear cache by URL, or entirely, via the Cloudflare dashboard. But you might want to write a bash script that pings their API, to make this action faster.)

On "free": I think people should value their time at $X / hour and factor that into the calculation. Even if one is an experienced web developer, that often makes the dollar cost of paid platforms seem like a good deal.

The other non-geek factors you mentioned apply to the static site vs Google Docs comparison, but not to static site vs "proper" platform.

Love this type of post!