Been trying to practice what I preach and actually look up web content outside of the Social Silos. This means firing up an old Feedly account and read the ‘net like we did back when we used to call it the ‘net.*
When I find an article that looks good, I throw it into Pocket for reading and deep archive.
We’ll see if I can keep this up long enough for it to actually be a value add in my life.
So I thought I’d finally get to why I moved from a Jekyll install to a WordPress site for this blog. Settle in because this might get slightly technical.
First, WTF is Jekyll? And if you do know what that is, why would I be moving from it to WordPress when usually it’s the other way around?
This site was hosted on GitHub Pages service of GitHub, which is a code hosting repository. And was a way for me to get this site up with almost no money. (I just had to pay for the URL.)
So why leave?
Because this wasn’t all of my setup. Jekyll is just the command that the processing at GitHub used to compile my site when another command line tool called Git told it to. Also, Jekyll doesn’t have an interface. This meant that if I wanted to add a new post, I would either have to write it as a text file and upload it to GitHub using Git, or find a third-part web app to act as an interface and CMS. I opted to for the latter and used the simple but quite nice CSM Siteleaf.
But this doesn’t control the layout, which meant that I had to use a templated theme that if it didn’t do what I wanted I had to edit the code myself. Even that required some doing because Jekyll is just flat script, so if I wanted to recode the theme to give myself a new feature I might have to install a plugin for the Jekyll so it could understand it.
This also came with it’s own challenges because GitHub doesn’t allow most Jekyll plugins with the basic GitHub Pages setup so I would have to create a new subsystem using GitHub Actions that would trigger on update to build my site with the configurations I wanted.
And If I wanted to do something crazy like add a sub title to a post, I might have to change the entire CMS layer because Siteleaf might not understand that functionality to add it to the interface even though I coded it into the theme directly.
This is all before we get into things like view counts and comments with both would require two separate third party apps that I would have to integrate.
You get the idea.
The real reasons I put myself through all this was as a personal challenge to make it all work cheaply and because my old blog was feeling stale and I wanted to start again with a slightly new concept. Something more immediate and a throw back to when personal blogs felt personal.
And that worked, by the way, for a long while. It felt great to pull all these parts together from scratch and will this site into existence. I learned so much working with JAMStack technologies, and there are a lot of people that believe that things like Jekyll sites are the future of the web and I largely believe them, even now.
If you’re a full on web developer and running a business that sets up digital storefronts for others, there’s really not a faster way to do that once you get your tooling down. And unfortunately, that’s what most of the web is turning into: store fronts and cash registers for businesses.
Why go back to WordPress?
In a world where I can go anywhere, why go back to WordPress? It’s getting a reputation in web dev circles as being a really bloated piece of software. Maybe that’s true, but I really love it and always have.
It does almost everything I want out of the box – generate the website and allow me to edit it within the same tool! – and what it doesn’t do straight away is handled by like one or two plugins.
While I was setting all of this up, I looked at my profile on WordPress.com and found that I joined in the end of 2006. That’s only one year less than WordPress.com has been around. I remember finding it and thinking, “a tool that lets you make a site with posts AND PAGES!!! For free?!!” Every web project that I’ve made since then has been either a hosted or self-hosted WordPress site. I read their update blogs when I’m not working on a site and get exited.
Their one of their a tech company that still holds my values of openness and inclusion. And by now I know the tool pretty damn well.
So I was the only person who was surprised when I finally went back to WordPress.
And they didn’t even make me feel bad about my time away.
Software has been on my brain a lot lately. In no small part thanks to building this site. It’s been a lot of reading people gushing over the concept of the JAMStack.
Which has me thinking that perhaps the only people who still have technology they love are programers. It used to not be that way. We used to get really excited about new technology: gadgets, software, games. (I’m an old, so I remember people standing in line for copies of Windows 95.)
Now we have things that are ubiquitous but nobody’s favorite. Nobody loves Facebook. Contrary to the screaming echo chamber of hot takes, not everyone who uses it hates it, but no one is excited by the prospect of logging in.
I think we’re all just exhausted by technology around us. We have to use it for work and are afraid we’ll be found out as not being The Best at it. Then we get home and find out that the “for fun” software on our phones are eroding the concept of personal privacy, or subverting democracy, or some such.
Put country plain: Technology is a support structure for life, but right now, I think we might have it the other way around.