If you are reading this, I have a new personal site. My previous site was down for a very long time: initially, the server had gone down because log files had grown too large and I hadn’t set up a proper log rotation system that discarded the old log files.
Then I tried to upgrade the server, because the OS was massively out-of-date (thus opening up possible security vulnerabilities), and in the process I broke it. Or it broke. The upgrade from Ubuntu 17.10 to 18.04 didn’t take.
I managed to recover the old server long enough to log in and get the important stuff: the actual content. Then I thought: better start afresh. New server, installed from scratch, set up the blog app I’d written, import the old content, and we’re back in business.
But I didn’t. To do it properly, I’d need to write some kind of automated setup script, either a bunch of shell scripts, something involving Docker or something like Ansible. Way too much effort for a personal blog. DevOps is one thing, but BlogOps? I refuse.
Even if I were to do so, I would be in the same bind: in a year or two, I’d have to upgrade it all again, and that would require time and effort.
Alternatively, I could host it on Heroku, but to make that work properly, you have to pay money. Or maybe on Google Cloud Platform, or Azure. More technology to learn. No thanks.
Instead, I settled on using Hugo and Netlify. My friend Dan had told me about Netlify recently—I had heard of it, but hadn’t really tried it. It is basically Heroku but for static sites. GitHub Pages, but with a bunch of useful stuff thrown in, including Let’s Encrypt.
Why Hugo? Because it exists and is reasonably well maintained. Frankly, I don’t know Go, but it looks reasonably straightforward to learn enough if I need to meddle in the innards of the thing—which I have no intention to unless necessary.
I grabbed the nicest looking Hugo theme, and got it up on Netlify within about 15 minutes. I don’t need to administer a server. I can turn off a VPS or two, which saves a bit of beer money. Netlify has a CMS that I can use to make it so I can edit in a web browser rather than having to use text editors and command lines.
I may be forced to reluctantly agree with Tantek on the “database antipattern” as it applies to personal sites.
So, what’s going to go on my new site?
I do not plan to publish a great deal of stuff. I have reached a point in my life where I have begun to doubt the benefits of blogging, social media and maintaining a public profile. I strongly contemplated just letting the site die along with the server.
Rather than fully abstaining, I have decided to scale down my site to the absolute minimum possible.
Some old content may return. I have yet to decide. I have all of it. If I put it back up, I will restore the old URLs. I might put selected bits of it up. I might not.
Running some kind of blog is excellent if you wish to react in detail to what is going on in the world. I do not.
Running a personal site is very useful if you have a lot of technical material you wish to publish. I currently do not.
Running a personal site is useful if you have a lot of well-studied reflections you wish to share. I currently do not.
Running a personal site is useful if you wish to build a personal brand. I don’t.
I may have some notes and thoughts I wish to share at some point, so I feel I ought to have somewhere to store those on the public web. I might copy a few of the reasonably okay-ish things I’ve written elsewhere and put them on here for safe keeping.
I’m in the slightly strange situation of having an almost perfect set up now that I no longer feel like doing a great deal with it.
Don’t be too disappointed if not much happens here. This is an intentional choice: if it weren’t a ghastly marketing buzzword, one might call it a “mindful” choice, made to simplify my life and focus on what matters.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.