There’s No Place Like Home

I’ve had a blog in some form or other since 2005. I’ve run the gamut starting with a Yahoo-based community, to an independent self-hosted Wordpress site, to Twitter, Tumblr, and beyond. Somewhere along the way, social media took hold, and the time I used to spend writing was shifted elsewhere. I rallied a few years back, decided that self-hosting was becoming too time-consuming, and switched to Squarespace. It was easy enough to design a site on there, but had a higher barrier to clear for posting.

This, of course, is not the fault of the platform (or any platform), so much as my own circumstance. Managing life and work meant I had less time to tinker, so Wordpress became less optimal. Similarly, the challenges posed with navigating Squaresapce to be able to post were enough that I didn’t find it simple, convenient, or enjoyable to do so. And honestly, when I think of the process to do so, what I think was that the barrier to entry and post for other platforms, especially social media platforms, was so low, that anything beyond that felt cumbersome.

Recently, I restructured a business I’ve run for several years, and needed to shift the Squarespace site to that, which left me without a place for my personal website and writing. I figured, with Gutenberg, the time would be ripe to return to Wordpress and I’d happily shift gears. Turns out, I was wrong. Much as I used to love blogging through Wordpress, in its current form it feels far more overwhelming than it once did. Many themes are now frameworks, and suggest anywhere from one to four (for less complex themes) additional plug-ins in order work “ideally”. For a hobbyist like me, the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself fiddling with themes, plug-ins, deleting everything and re-installing it, and more, only to find it’s just not pleasant for me to use. Writing online was once my favorite thing to do online, and the limitations, it seem now, was part of the fun of it.

I’d heard of other blogging systems which were static, and appealing for that simplicity. Jekyll is a better-known one, but the barrier to entry is higher given that I’m not a programmer. I learned about newer CMS systems called “flat file CMS”, which seem to blend traditional CMS systems with static systems, opting for folder-based architectures. Of the ones I tried, my favorite was Grav, in part because of the nice graphical admin panel you can install. This week, to further explore, I tried out Netlify with some one-click installs to Github of both Hugo and Gatsby on their NetlifyCMS platform.

I like the idea of all these platforms, but as someone who is neither a programmer nor a web developer, they felt overwhelming to me. After a while, I remember backing on kickstarter, and while I started my account after it funded, I really didn’t make much effort to use it. It felt abstract, and I spent most of my time away from the Internet anyway. I logged back in, re-read some of the intro documentation, and realized that it hits that sweet spot that I’ve been looking for. It’s light-weight, designed for writing, and allows me to own all my writing, so I can keep export it at will whenever I need. It’s great for short status updates, but capable of long-form writing too. I even love how it handles photos. And the best part? The hosting is handled directly, and it has excellent iOS integration, so it’s easy for me to write from my iPad Pro, which is my favorite device for writing.

A while back, I was musing, very briefly, how to make use of my site here. I didn’t make much effort beyond that to try, but I think now I have a good idea.