My new year’s resolution for 2013 has been to write. Just, in general, write when you can. I enjoy experimenting with technology and software, so I thought a blog would do the trick. It has gone through several iterations, but this is where it has ended up.1

Blogging was the major internet trend in the early- to mid-2000s, which is why seemingly no one does it anymore and all the cool people broadcast their thoughts on their social network of choice. But there are several advantages to it that people forget about in the age of the like and the tweet. Blogging creates your own personal space on the web, free from advertisers devising new ways to use your own data to push their product more effectively. If done correctly, you own the content you put out, and you can learn a lot of about web hosting and internet protocols if you so choose. I was only just starting, so I tried going the free route to see what I could find.

Pressing & Tumbling

I started out with a wordpress.com blog. It had everything I needed to start writing, so I did. The community at wordpress.com is centered on writing, which was good encouragement. But once I started to get the hang of it, it seemed like there was a lot that the free account would not let me do. The open source WordPress is a powerful tool, and their free site gives you just enough of a taste to know you can do more. I still was not ready to fork over any money, so I packed up for the other major free ‘blogging’ tool on the web today, Tumblr.

I had started a Tumblr account a while ago, but hadn’t used it much. I came back to compare features with my new WordPress blog, and there was a lot to like. The site is very stylish and minimalist, which is kind of the opposite of WordPress (unless you put a lot of work into it). It is easy to find a lot of interesting people on Tumblr, and the mobile app is great (better than WordPress at the time). The combination was enough to keep me there for most of the year.

Ghosting

In late October, an episode of one of my must-listen podcasts focused on blogging (In Beta #70), and it convinced me to try to build my own blog. I finally had a feel for the writing part, and I wanted to make a place of my own that didn’t end in ‘dot something dot com.’ The one that sounded the most interesting, Ghost, had just launched to the public. I registered my domain, hacked around in my router settings, and started hosting it from my own laptop. This was obviously not an ideal situation, but I still wanted to experiment before venturing into the confusing world of web hosting services.

The experience was enlightening. Ghost will soon be a great blogging platform, but for the technical layperson it is not there yet. I enjoy the minimalist approach, and they are still adding features, but there are bugs. I was not able to even upload a picture, a simple task on another framework. I could not nail down whether it was a bug in the code or a bug in my makeshift server settings. My laptop was also hosting my Plex server and kept getting kicked off the network in favor of my NAS, so I finally gave in and found a cheap webhost. Ghost is too resource intensive for shared hosting, so back to WordPress I went.

Tools and Takeaways

One of the major lessons I learned from all this is that formatting a post is much easier in Markdown. The native editor in Ghost offers Markdown support (which I miss), but the others have not added this (or have done it poorly). So, for the most part I composed posts with outside tools. Draft has been my tool of choice, and I have been using it since its release. It supports Multimarkdown (footnotes and tables and such), and it also allows professionals to review your work for a small fee. Draft moved to a freemium model, and has started to really push for users to subscribe. Although the writing features are invaluable I don’t feel like I write enough to justify paying (is this a recurring theme?). Because of this, I have tried out some other writing tools recently. Editorially and Dillinger are two good ones that I have found, but the best so far feature-wise is StackEdit.

What else did I learn?

  • Writing can be very therapeutic. A blog is a good place for venting frustration or righteous nerd anger.
  • I am apparently a cheapskate. I guess I did not know what I was doing, so going the free route made sense, but it did not hit me just how far I went to avoid spending money until writing this post.
  • Open source is the way to go. The wide open nature of the web would not be nearly as wide if it were built on proprietary tools. You can almost always find an open source, (nearly-)free version of whatever tool you need.

photo: paolovalde (via Flickr)


  1. In fact you are reading the fruit of my labors now!

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  1. It’s the end of the year, a time for reflecting and summation. It is a totally arbitrary time, probably adopted from some pagans, just like most of the holidays on the Gregorian calendar. But the year had to end sometime, and that time is now1. Time for the quality of weather to plummet, and for the amount of listicles published to soar. I now have a blog, and so by the transitive property I must now make listicles, like so2:

    BEST PICTURES I TOOK THIS YEAR, AS JUDGED BY ME
    Two of them are screencaps. I don’t take a lot of pictures.
    What is this magic picture machine?reading buddiesFeastinDog partyTrue storyBlack blue screen of deathNo swing dancingRoller derbyHungry catboredAWESOME SONGS THAT MAY NOT HAVE COME OUT THIS YEAR BUT I LISTENED TO A LOT ANYWAY

    COOL ARTICLES I READ, PROBABLY THIS YEAR
    On Smarm (Gawker)

    What is smarm, exactly? Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves.
    Smarm would rather talk about anything other than smarm. Why, smarm asks, can’t everyone just be nicer?

    The Period is Pissed (The New Republic)

    The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry. I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce “I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.”

    How to Win Any Bourbon Argument (Esquire)

    You’ve gone and done it. You’ve expressed a preference for a bourbon within earshot of another person. Little did you realize that arguing about bourbon is now our sixth most popular sport, behind arguing about “grape vs. grain” vodkas, parenting strategies, craft beers, workout regimens, and college football.

    Get Ready to Lose Your Job (TechCrunch)

    Kurzweil claims that whenever technology hits a limit, “a paradigm shift (i.e., a fundamental change in the approach) occurs, which enables exponential growth to continue.” That’s not much more than a convenient article of faith. As Peter Thiel points out, “technological progress has fallen short in many domains. Consider the most literal instance of non-acceleration: We are no longer moving faster. The centuries-long acceleration of travel speeds … reversed with the decommissioning of the Concorde in 2003.”

    The Pixar Theory (John Negroni)
    This post expounds the theory that all Pixar movies (from Toy Story to Monsters University) exist in the same timeline and are all connected, which is simultaneously crazy and awesome (crawesome).
    Megan Mullaly and Nick Offerman answer your questions on how to “engage in romantic love” (A.V. Club)
    (There is a phrase repeated through several answers that I will not include here. Rated PG-13)
    2013 LIST OF BEST BEST-OF LISTS … 2013
    Rolling Stone’s 20 Best Lists of 2013
    McSweeney’s Suggested Buzzfeed Articles, followed by Buzzfeed actually doing them
    A list of all the movies that came out in 2013, from Gravity to Texas Chainsaw 3D to A Madea Christmas. No bests – make of that what you will
    Metacritic’s top albums of the 2013, followed by a list of all the top 10 lists
    BEST CONDIMENTS TO PUT ON SANDWICHES OR WHAT HAVE YOU
    BARBECUE SAUCE
    NOTHING
    BEST AMOUNT OF ITEMS TO PUT IN A LIST
    3
    5
    2
    0
    34
    PLACES I VISITED THIS YEAR THAT ARE ALSO BEST I GUESS
    Cancun
    San Francisco
    Destin
    Long Island (the good parts)
    All in all, a good year. See you for the next one.

    Because nothing happens between December 22 and January.
    Try to watch this and not say “Scooby Doo Monster Game” in your best Sean Connery voice. You can’t.

  2. I have been griping about leaving Facebook and owning my data for a while now, but I may have finally found a solution.
    The indie web, its called. Made up of the people who got tired of talking about these concepts and decided to start doing something about them.
    I first heard about them on one of my weekly must-hear podcasts, In Beta (episode 90). Then a guest on another webcast I enjoy regularly – This Week in Google #241 – brought it up near the end. (TWiG actually just dedicated most of an episode to it – #266.)
    I always viewed blogging (at least my blog) as a spot for thoughts that skewed toward longform writing, that could not be fleshed out in a short snippet. The indie web, however, encourages tweet-length thoughts as well as longer posts, which can then be syndicated to whatever social network you choose. The point is to not keep those thoughts siloed somewhere that may eventually shut down or change their policies, but to control your online identity, on your own terms. You can build your own tools, or you can browse the IndieWeb site to find something pre-built to use on your site.
    But how will people see these posts if they are on Facebook or Twitter? Well, they thought of that too. POSSE stands for Post (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. By syndicating, your non-IndieWeb friends will still get to see what you are up to. And using the webmention protocol, comments and replies will be pulled back into your own site as well.
    If you are feeling less brave, one of the higher-profile indie web tools just launched a beta. It is called Known, and it has been treating me well so far. I look forward to their hosted/beta service adding a WordPress plugin. But if I did my work right, you should see my Known post about this article down below.
    TL;DR: if you see anything oddly formatted posts on my site or one of my social profiles, it is probably an attempt at implementing one of the Indie Web projects. Maybe if you are getting wary of Facebook and you’re looking for a technically-inclined side project, you should check it out too.