January 20, 2020
After (another) lengthy but unintended hiatus from posting, I’ve decided to revamp this blog.
I’ve been spending too much time reading Twitter and looking at Instagram. Thank goodness I never fell down the Facebook well, as the others are more than enough of a mostly-useless time sink.
To be fair, I do feel like I have gotten quite a bit of good from time spent surfing through the fun, quirky and weird terrain and personalities of what passes for “social” these days. But there are increasingly too many times when I can’t just spend five minutes, and find that an hour has been lost with no tangible result.
I realize that almost no one actively reads this blog; and I don’t very much care if that changes or not. I’m writing for me, as much as anyone. Maybe I will post a note to Twitter when I put something new up here - but I might not. Doesn’t really matter.
So, I realized one other reason (beside social media quicksand) that I wasn’t writing anything much beyond 140 characters, was that I’ve been using the Blogger platform and it doesn’t really match how I work very well.
Blogger’s great - you can throw together a decent-looking website with many fancy features in nothing flat; you can even point your own domain at it easily enough. You’re tied to the Google tracking monster though, and anything you want to do with your new site, you must accomplish through the web interface provided.
I’ve considered options from time to time - Word Press or something, hosted on any number of providers’ servers. But I took a step back, and really thought about what I wanted.
I don’t need an instantaneous system that will deliver my posts the very instant I have composed them; I’m more contemplative than that, most of the time. I do need to be able to write completely off-line, and sync up later. I want to be able to write and manage my website within the patterns and tools that I use for other writing, e.g. code and papers, and that means using git (and GitHub) for version management and (usually) vim as my editor. I like Markdown for writing anything short of a full-up professional paper, and even then I will probably use Markdown for the drafts.
A little searching pretty quickly led me to the idea of using GitHub’s hosting feature, Pages – since I’m already managing my personal projects in GitHub, it’s a natural progression, and GitHub makes it pretty easy. I don’t have to worry about future portability, since all the posts are entirely controlled by me, written in MarkdownMarkdown is a formatting markup standard for plain-text files. It can be processed into many other formats such as HTML or RTF or LaTeX, but the original marked-up text file remains highly human-readable in its original form.
GitHub also makes it easy to use Jekyll Jekyll is a set of Ruby scripts that process Markdown-formatted text files into HTML files, based on a set of templates and the Liquid template engine , a static page generator. You don’t have to - you could put up anything you want, but Jekyll has been around a while, and is straightforward in what it does.
Curiously, it wasn’t until a couple weeks into this experiment that I ran across the original introductory blog post by the creator of Jekyll (and not coincidentally, the co-founder and former CEO of GitHub), Tom Preston-Werner (Blogging like a hacker) in which he lays out his rationale for creating Jekyll… which turns out to be almost identical to mine. Thus, I stumbled into what seems to be a tailor-made solution. The suit was tailored for someone else, but happens to fit remarkably well.
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