The Technology Path of Least Resistance
Choosing a simple and reliable blogging platform to create a frictionless publishing experience.
I can’t remember a time in my life where I’ve come up with a New Year’s resolution. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I don’t believe in them, as one friend did in the first week of 2018, but I’ve never felt a compulsion to formalize a particular goal for the new year. That is, not until this year.
This year, I’ve decided to make my life simpler by choosing reliable, simple software over complicated and buggy software. This is most assuredly in response to the ever progressing technological complexity that has invaded our modern lives. On a typical day, I hear, “Dad, (insert device or service here) isn’t working!” at least a couple of times. It’s enough to make me long for things that do, in fact, just work. I don’t want to spend my days fiddling around trying to get things to behave the way they are supposed to behave. In short, I don’t want to live my life in a perpetual state of tech support.
It’s safe to say this won’t be the year of trying Linux on the desktop (again).
As a part of this resolution for 2018, I’ll be blogging about some of the tech that I’m choosing to use and why I’m using it. This is an exercise in intentionality. Putting these thoughts out there helps me to work through the process and the reasons for my choices. It may be just a bit jargony at times, but I’m hoping this writing also helps others to make decisions that simplify their interactions with technology. We’ve all got so many things (good and bad) vying for our attention that deciding how we spend our time has become increasingly important.
As December 2017 approached, I was staring down a bank of paid time off that begged to be used. I’m in a use it or lose it situation with my time off, at the end of the year, so I carved out some time in December to walk away from work (if not from other responsibilities — like home repairs). While taking my PTO, I continued the training I had started for the AWS CSAA exam and once again fired up some of my machine resources in the cloud. I spun up a new EC2 instance with a Bitnami Wordpress image on it to stand up a self-hosted Wordpress blog.
I have a hosted Wordpress site, but the options for the personal plan that Wordpress provides doesn’t let you upload themes, install plugins or override CSS settings, which is a little frustrating for a service for which you are paying. To get those options, you have to upgrade to a business plan, which is at a price point that doesn’t make sense for a low-traffic personal site. Running a self-hosted Wordpress site requires a little bit more configuration and elbow grease than going the hosted route, but for roughly the price of running an EC2 image on AWS through a service like Lightsail, you can customize to your heart’s delight. Unfortunately, after all of the work I put into customizations, I kept having to deal with an issue where the Jetpack plugin, which allows administration of Wordpress sites through a web-accessible API and the Wordpress mobile app, kept losing the connection to my self-hosted site. I had to go through the steps of disconnecting the site and going back into the local install and reconnecting it several times within a few weeks.
After spending a lot of time working with Wordpress, I came to much the same conclusion as Drew Coffman, which he relates in this post. I just wanted to write, not fiddle with Wordpress settings. As much fun as the customization of a new blog can be, the upkeep for a simple self-hosted Wordpress doesn’t seem to be worth the investment. Medium offers a good alternative in the form of their publications, which are basically synonymous with blogs. Publications are easy to setup, simple to import content into, require little maintenance, and even offer an easy-to-use newsletter functionality. I had a conversation with Coffman over Twitter about using Medium for blogging and while he loves Medium, he didn’t feel like it was setup for writing shorter pieces (under 500 words). Although people typically use Medium to write longer-form pieces, nothing prevents you from writing shorter blog posts, either. In fact, Ev Williams, CEO of Medium, supports the idea that longer is not necessarily better.
If you’re reading for enjoyment/entertainment, longer might be better. We’ve all had that I-don’t-want-this-novel-to-end feeling. But how often do you have the I-don’t-want-this-article-to-end feeling — even when it’s great?
Blog posts don’t have to be a certain length and I don’t feel any particular constraints about what I can publish on a Medium. My only real disappointment with Medium right now is that they’ve (at least temporarily) shut off their ability to use a custom domain name. I was looking forward to hooking up my domain in Route 53 in AWS to my new Medium blog. Hopefully that will happen sometime in the near future.