Mikko MetsoI'm a coder, this is my blog


Why blog? (again)

October 05, 2019

  • en /
  • Gatsby /
  • Wordpress /
  • headless cms /

Real blog this time

For the past five years I have being starting blog project about three or four time. This last one tries to be a “real” blog with posts and all. Earlier ones have being more about displaying my visual works. Behind every blog projects there has being a big common denominator. For me motivation to write blogs has never being just to get a digital reference online, but more about learning useful new things. And as they say you learn by living.

In five years I wrote only a handfull of blog posts, but learned a heck of a lot

In the past five years I wrote only a handfull of blog posts, but learned a heck of a lot. The first blog was a wordpress page on a hosting service. With that project I learned a lot about handling domains and hosting service, wordpres configurations and it’s themes. And also a great deal about how websites can be exposed to Google and how to use their analytics tools.

New things bring new challenges

During the projects there have being many challenges as well. When I started I wasn’t nearly as good coder as I should have being to carry out the vision that I had in my mind. I had to learn to compromise along the way. One of the biggest things was that I had to trust on bought theme. This made posting slower because of the way I had to apply styling when writing. And not in the fun way like Markdown does it. I also learned that the business model of many web service provides is near to a scam. You get sucked in with cheap sales and starter packages but when the time goes by the prices go up exponentially. Anyone how hasn’t got the skill set or time or doesn’t bother end up paying the price. For me on the other hand this was a time to rething what sort of project I actually wanted and needed. So I tore everything down and started again.

Applying knowledge

From the start of 2017 I went on a study leave. I decided it was a perfect timing to try with a new blog project. I abandoned web service hosts because they were pricy and tedious to work with and started to apply knowledge that I had learned in few years. At that time I was learning about virtual machine droplets and moved my blog to my very own space on the cloud. School also encouraged to publish projects online so this brought a new point of view along about documenting your work and raporting it forward.

As fun and exciding it was to have something to write about it came clear that the wordpress did not work with me. Writing a simple post was slow as hell and I needed more and more freedom to style the blog as I wanted. So at this point I knew what i really wanted and needed from blog platform,

  • It came clear that I actually wanted to write a blog (in comparison to the fact tha t before it was more about learning than writing posts)
  • I regognized the barriers that needed to overcame before I could succeed monthly
  • What sort of setup and platform I needed to be succesful

During the blog project I came to realize that I really like doing blogs. It’s a great way for me to learn more. And further more to practise my writing. I’m always being somewhat a lazy writer. I never wrote that much and when I had to it showed. I learn by doing so obviously best way to train writing is to have something to write about and a schedule to commit. And of course a blog about your profession (sort of) is a way to advertise yuorself. To the top of all this you learn a lot of tacit knowledge that you can’t otherwise. Stuff about search engine optimization, page administration, domains etc. For me coding is the most important thing of course, but there’s a lot of things that are beneficial to know about if and when your publishing code out to the real world.

At the end the biggest challenge for me to succeed blogging was in Wordpress. I don’t need (nor want) to use Wordpress on my daily work so putting effort to learning it wasn’t that tempting. As mentioned before drafting a post was super slow and because I basically did it in browser it was just wrong. And I knew it. The amount of compromises I had to do stylewise and other was just unacceptable. I knew I needed to change my workflow to text editor in order to succeed.

On July I started on my latest job. I work as a frond end web developer and code (when writing this) unpublished web store. The project is done with GatsbyJS, which lies heavily on React. The idea behind Gatsby is to create static pages on load and serve them from cache making it super fast for users. I thing it is fair to say that Gatsby can be used as a template engine that makes pages out from the data it gets.

The current webstore data is served to Gatsby via API but fortunately for me Gatsby isn’t that picky about where it gets its data from. The part of it charm is that you can connect many sort of data sources in it from Markdown files to CMS:ses like Wordpress and aforementioned APIs. The idea about headless CMS’s where the content is handled elsewhere from the page execution itself it in my oppinion a great way to tackle all sorts of problems. At first I even considered sticking with wordpress given that the new wordpress-cli tools seemed really nice. But knowing that the content could be also handled easily via markdown files I really want it to be the main source of blog posts. It’s easy to write down in text editor and of course format. Also everything is quick and easy to publish just by commiting the changes to a Github repository that is connected to Netlify workflow.

This was somewhat long and maybe not so coherent post about why I’m writing these posts and why I’m planning to do so. And of course also about why I’m using these technologies that I’m using. As a coder I write code almost every day. Blog gives me a platform to hopefully document at least some of these things here and so serve as a collective memory to maybe someday refer to. I’m planning on writing at least about Gatsby. Also based on this post maybe I’ll revisit those wordpress-cli tools and give a try with them. After all at least now the headless cms seems a pretty right thing to build stuff.

A Postscript promise. I try to publish something at least once a week. If I have being slipping from this schedule more than once or twice by the end of the year I give myself a pass to rething this publishing shedule.