July 26, 2009

Episode IV: A new blog engine

I have the same problem with my Web sites as I have with my Moleskines. Whenever I get a new one I spend hours setting it up. Making sure everything fits perfectly and looks great. But then, I open it, and draw a blank. Nothing I write is up to standards for the site. So then, I procrastinate the next blog post, get frustrated and eventually leave it at that.

Acquired taste for writing

If it doesn’t come naturally, and I’m not that good at it, why do it?

I have a confession to make: I didn’t particularly like Radiohead’s OK Computer the first time I heard it. It has since become my favorite CD. But when I first heard it, it was too complex. I knew this was because I was too used to commercial rhythms. Before that I had rebelled against my classmates love for Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Guns and Roses by becoming a reggae fan1 (I know, I know). Point is, I understood that there was something beyond the 4/4 time and basic chords. So I listened to it again. And again. By the end of the week, I liked it. By the end of the month, loved it. A year later, I was enjoying my dad’s Pink Floyd’s CD’s.

I need to believe that good writing is the same way. It’s complex and not easy initially. But if you stick to it for a while it will grow on you. Because it’s what you want to happen.

Are you talking to me?

After listening to Merlin Mann and John Gruber podcast about blogging, it became very obvious that I also didn’t have an ideal reader in mind. Most of the time I just try to write something that mimics what some of the bloggers I look up to have already written. Which very quickly leads to disappointment because they have already done it (written about it, commented, etc) in a much more elegant way.

The format

The easiest and most fun way to blog for me is the tumblelog. Where you either link or quote, and then comment. But it’s difficult to consider it writing. It also is arguable how useful these links are, especially with sites that make it easy for popular stuff to float to the front-page like Techmeme, Reddit and Digg. Most likely I won’t be able to contain myself and post links regularly. But I won’t consider this writing.

This time it’s personal

I’m going to keep the focus on tech and tools. It is what I’m passionate about, and either way, I’m still thinking about it all the time. What I’m going to change, is my idea of the target reader. I’m going to concentrate in thinking about people I know (@federicoa, @carlosmherrera, @navjotpawera). Hopefully this will help keep my feet on the ground regarding topics, depth and insights that are expected.

The tool

If there is something about the new site that I’m happy with, it’s the new engine behind it. I’m using Jekyll (Update: the blog is now hosted on tumblr, feel free to laugh at me). For the reader, the only difference is that the site should now load super fast. That’s because it’s a static web site with a bunch of html files2. The site is generated on my Macs3 with a command line tool and I then rsync it to my server. The whole process is geeky, straight forward, and once setup: completely uninstrusive for concentrating on content. I’m writing this post on TextMate using Markdown, the date-stamp and the link come from the name I give the file.

Well, let’s see how it works out this time around. Fourth time is the charm, they say.

  1. For this reason my tolerance for UB40 is almost none nowadays. ↩︎

  2. Of course, it is also much smaller on the server. The same amount of content took about 90% less space than Wordpress. It’s true that I have 90% less features, but I was not using any of it. ↩︎

  3. I have the folder for the site on Dropbox which lets work on the local” site, exactly the same way from home or the office. ↩︎


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