P&B: Jim Nielsen

This is the 8th edition of People and Blogs, the series where I ask interesting people to talk about themselves and their blogs. Today we have Jim Nielsen and his—verified!—blog, blog.jim-nielsen.com

Jim is a designer, front-end developer, and writer with more than 20 years of experience in the industry.

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Let's start from the basics: can you introduce yourself?

My name is Jim Nielsen (not to be confused with Jim Nielsen, the California state senator, who still outranks me on Google).

Professionally, I love working at the intersection of design and code on the web. I think that makes me a [gulps] “unicorn”, but when I started we just called it a “webmaster”.

Personally, I’m happily married to my lovely wife of 11 years, Charlene. We have three boys and one cat whose name is Fluffy (I am allergic to cats — oh, the things you do for your kids).

What's the story behind your blog?

I think my first blog was on Blogger, but it has since been lost to history (probably for the best). It mainly consisted of me posting pictures of ridiculous stuff I’d made in Photoshop — what we might call “memes” and “shitposting” now.

The current incarnation of my blog has posts dating back to 2012 (probably don’t read them, I don’t stand by many things I said older than about six months ha). It has gone through many iterations through the years, some of which I’ve documented with the hashtag #myBlog.

What does your creative process look like when it comes to blogging?

My blogging doesn’t feel “original” or “creative” to me. I blog because I read other people’s blogs and I want to internalize what they said by restating it myself.

When I read, watch, or listen to something from someone else that piques my interest, I write it down then add my proverbial two cents.

Sometimes my two cents is short, so the text ends up in my notes. But sometimes I end up having a lot to say and it grows into a blog post.

In short, I take notes like a college student. Then I publish them.

Do you have an ideal creative environment? Also do you believe the physical space influences your creativity?

I’m conflicted on this topic.

Do I think certain environments are more conducive to the kind of mindfulness that leads to creative thinking? Absolutely.

Do I also think my environment doesn’t matter that much (beyond a reasonable point)? Yes.

For me, a creative environment is a balanced state of mind and body inside of me rather than a furnished physical space around me.

To this point, I really like what Stephen King said, which I blogged about, and will summarize as: your life doesn’t revolve around your creative environment, it’s the other way around.

A question for the techie readers: can you run us through your tech stack?

My blog lives at a subdomain of my personal site, blog.jim-nielsen.com, and is hosted by Netlify.

It is a custom setup on top of my favorite SSG: Metalsmith.

Posts are authored as plain-text Markdown files in iA Writer (with no front-matter, mind you). Templating is a custom, zero dependency solution similar to JSX that uses tagged template literals.

Lastly, to plug a personal but possibly unpopular opinion, I don’t create social share imagery for my posts. I find them to be more cruft than substance as well as an impediment to publishing.

(Reminder: I metablog the technical details of my blog under the tag #myBlog.)

Given your experience, if you were to start a blog today, would you do anything differently?

Probably not. Here’s why:

The current state of my blog is a result of me experiencing the difficulties of where it was previously. What works now works because of who I am right now, and it’s no guarantee of what will work in the future.

If Jim five years from now gave me advice about blogging, I’d be taking advice on problems I hadn’t yet experienced and it would seem alien, like “Oh interesting…why would he recommend I do that differently?”

The best part of blogging is what you discover and learn experientially along the way. I wouldn’t want to rob myself of that.

Financial question since the web is obsessed with money: how much does it cost to run your blog? Is it just a cost or does it generate some revenue? And what's your position on people monetising personal blogs?

It costs me $0 to run my blog (thank you Netlify).

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t considered trying to monetize my blog. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a good day job and don’t need or want the extra effort for extra dough.

That said, I grew up in an era when people blogged about web stuff for free and I benefited immensely from their work so I feel a kind of obligation to pay it forward. Thank you blogger peeps from days of yore.

Time for some recommendations: any blog you think is worth checking out? And also, who do you think I should be interviewing next?

Gosh, I have so many more! I’ll have to write more on my own blog…

Final question: is there anything you want to share with us?

I attempted to impose a 500 character limit on myself for each of these answers (I did pretty good) hoping some constraint would breed a little creativity, but also to make your life, dear reader, a little easier.

If you want suggestions from me, follow my blog or my notes because that’s where I link to things I like and talk about things I’m working on.

I still have a few characters left here in my allotment of 500 for this answer, perhaps I should spend time promoting myself more…

Nah. Never was much good at that.

This was the 8th edition of People and Blogs. Hope you enjoyed this interview with Jim. Make sure to follow his blog (RSS) and get in touch with him if you have any questions.

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