Permanent signal

Do you know that encouraging smile runners give each other when they pass one another? It a gesture of anonymous kindness, actually quite a beautiful thing: Most likely they don’t know the person they’re passing and yet they dole out the motivational smile. You keep running; just like I will.

All that is possible because runners are easy to spot – a trait they share with practitioners of most free time activities. Music lovers congregate at concerts, football fans at stadiums – even if your hobby happens to be running marathons in Svalbard, its pretty obvious where you can to find the people sharing your fascination.

Blogging, however, is inherently lonely. The idea is to sit in front of a computer and type away. It is an inward-looking activity turned outward and its protagonist is usually alone. With that in mind, picture my surprise when I recently got to strike up a conversation about the merits of blogging with the friend of a friend. She had been keeping an online diary during her time abroad (which had just concluded) and was now looking for motivation to keep up the habit. “Why do you keep a blog?”, she asked.

No better medium

I was not exactly sure how to answer that question. In many respects (and quite fitting to this page’s tagline), it feels like this page and is something that happened to me. It started as a way to post pictures during my time as an exchange student in the United States and then just continued as the years went on. Posting on here has always felt natural – and it is hard to believe I started this site more than 12 years and 800 posts ago. It has become, to quote a favorite album title of mine, a permanent signal.

Over all those years, the format has held up really well. Sure, the page has gone through many iterations but the basic structure has always been text with images. I began building it before the term “blog” even existed and is has weathered the onslaught of countless social networks, publishing engines and other internet tools, many of which were supposed to be the future of the web and most of which were shut down sometime afterwards. Make no mistake about it, my blog is a tiny star in the universe of the internet – but it has been blinking steadily even when whole galaxies collapsed around it.

The reason for that is simpler than you might think – and no one says it better than Dutch journalist Ernst-Jan Pfauth, who just published his musings on why he returned to blogging:

There’s still no better medium for people to freely share their knowledge than blogging.

I am happy to continue doing just that. And as you may have noticed, I have just laid the groundwork for the next few years by making some changes to this site (this is where it gets technical):

  • I have moved this blog to a new domain – larsmensel.com
  • The page now runs on a customized, beautifully responsive design by Berlin-based designers Elmastudio. The future of publishing and reading is clearly mobile, so it pained me not to offer a mobile-optimized site. The new design also has a lot typographic options, which means that I can do more interesting text formatting in the future.
  • Speaking of type: I have changed the site’s font to FF Karbid, a beautiful font designed by Berlin-based typographer Verena Gerlach. It is based on the hand-drawn lettering found on storefronts in East Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is exactly the kind of thing I find exciting, and it seemed very appropriate to use a local designer’s work.
  • There’s now also an illustration of me that local illustrator Roland Brücker of bitteschoen.tv is letting me use. Many thanks to him!
  • Photos are now larger, responsive and will no longer be hosted on flickr. I still love flickr as a photo sharing service, but the past years have taught me that it is best to be in control of your own data. Keeping photos and the site database on the same server (here in Germany) gives me the independence and freedom to move files around, change image sizes and ensure it is all still there in case flickr ever shuts down.

It isn’t fully completed though: Some links might be dead, a few images missing. But I am working on it – and I plan to add further customizations such as image galleries in the future.

I hope you’ll stick around for it.