Les Orchard is typing…

Trying WordPress again

Embracing stasis to get unstuck

One of the reasons I stopped using WordPress was that I didn’t trust myself to leave code running in the cloud. I have a habit of wandering away and leaving things unpatched & bitrotting for years. If only for that reason, a baked-not-fried personal web feels more responsible.

I switched from WordPress to Jekyll. But, since then, staring down a pile of Markdown files has felt like a limiter on my already diminished writing output. I thought using my favorite text editor would be comfortable & fun. I’ve realized that coding-me and writing-me are different. Many affordances for programming are death-by-paper-cut for prosing.

Lately, I’ve done one of three things with ideas for writing:

  • Spew the raw idea directly onto Twitter
  • Write it down in my paper journal and keep it to myself
  • Promise myself to wrestle with Vim and blog machinery to refine the idea into a Proper Article

The mental drag of #3 converts every post into a Project. There’s little room for medium-sized things I might have published in the past. To counter this, I’d like to lower the friction between my head, the words, and the web.

So. WordPress. It’s been awhile. Gutenberg seems to jibe with how I’ve been thinking about web writing: Streams of components. Prose broken up with headings and images. A pull-quote or two. Some code samples and interactive widgets. Hell, maybe an embedded arcade game emulation from The Internet Archive.

In years past, trying WordPress & Gutenberg called for a weekend spent converting all the things I’ve written so far to use the New Shiny as the Sole Instantiation of my Online Presence.

I’ve done this several times: From Movable Type to WordPress to Blosxom to PyBlosxom to WordPress to Jekyll to WordPress to my own DIY thing that taught me how to use Gulp. (Remember Gulp? So 24 months ago.) I’ve managed to keep a decade of writing intact as I moved the corpus between each of those systems. Kind of an achievement, I guess.

Maybe it’s thanks to my career experience in the marketing side of web dev. It felt wrong to build anything but a cohesive monolith with a consistent brand identity and user experience. We were always refreshing and redesigning and never letting anything stay the way it was for long.

I kind of hate that I ever did it that way for my own stuff. It’s not like I’m paying myself or even really learning much this way. This time I’ve decided to just start a new publication. Leave the old stuff be until I feel like messing with it again.

And, it’s not like I don’t already have plenty of publications out here on the web, anyway.

That brings me to some criteria of how my publications should work, going forward:

  • Offer cool URIs that don’t change!
  • Live under a domain name that I control.
  • Live on the cheapest, dumbest web hosting.
  • Survive the obsolescence or disappearance of the authoring software.
  • Endure decades of complete neglect.

Standardizing on static websites can satisfy all these things. A few of my publications could use a one-time URL-breaking change to my own domains. And then there are things like Mastodon, which require active web services to keep working. Still, ideally, these are the things to shoot for.

So, I’ve been playing with WordPress by installing it on the Synology NAS in my office. The thing you’re reading right now is a static website produced via the Simply Static plugin. I push the files out to Amazon S3 via some quick-and-dirty shell scripting. I’m thinking I’ll write more about this rig in a future post.

This place looks different than the publication where I wrote my last big thing. I’m telling myself this is okay. Maybe I’ll try something like Ghost for the next thing I write: Ghost does things with blocks & cards now, too, so that’s interesting. That would look different and live on its own sub-domain, too. I’m telling myself that this is also okay.

So, to sum up: By letting things I’ve made go static, I can shed encumbrances to try new things. And I want to try new things to see if I can remove limiters on my writing.

And why do I want to write more on the web? Well, that’s probably a notion for another post.