Bringing the Blog Back From the Dead
It's been a long time since jimcloudman.com brought up something other than a "Can't reach this page" error page in your favorite browser. No, I haven't been hit by a bus! I just... had other things going on.
Some things that happened in my life since the blog went dark:
- I've started a new job
- I've started another new job
- I got married
- Our son was born
- I've started another new job
- We bought a house and moved to another town
So, sure, I've had a few distractions - but, looking back on it, I suspect the old blog needed to come to an end. I often think about that place, where I would run my mouth about tech stuff in a rather unfiltered way. Sometimes it was insightful enough to get a mention on a fairly popular tech podcast, and other times I wrote nonsense that no grown-up would want to read. It was a reflection of how I approached life back then.
To very maturely put it: I didn't have my shit together.
A What Now?
Ah, right. It's 2021 and I'm officially Old™.
For you young whipper-snappers out there: a "blog", once short for "web log," is a website that you yourself set up. On it you can put whatever you want, but it's usually a bunch of articles containing paragraphs of words, like you would see in a magazine! ...err, newspaper? No... OK, so articles are like Facebook statuses... nope, just old people there too... Alright.
Articles (known as "blog posts") are like the description on a YouTube video, except without the video, and way longer. They're also not collapsed to make more room to show comment sections full of bullying & ethnic slurs. Got it? Cool.
Why Bring It Back?
There's a few reasons. First, I have this habit of finding something exciting, specifically when it comes to tools and ideas related to web development & UX. I want to talk about those topics, and share them with others. Having a blog to aggregate and promote them is a great way to go about it.
In addition, a blog is a great thing to tinker with as a web developer. I'm exploring different ways to do all sorts of things across the technology stack, from UX and back-end up to server maintenance and DevOps platforms. It sharpens my skills, and that can only be a good thing. It also gives me a chance to show off my talent, which is otherwise spent on internal work stuff you don't get to see.
A less tangible benefit, but perhaps most significant, is that I have a place in the Internet world that's my own - that reflects my own voice. It's a space that provides a window for others to see who I am and what I care about, and I think it's important to have that.
I also recommend reading Laura Kalbag's 24 Ways article that she posted in 2019. She breaks down the reasons why you should have a personal site far better than I can.
What You'll Find Here
The general idea is that I'll have a couple channels going. I'll be the most unfiltered on Twitter and Facebook, while this blog (which I plan to share links to on Twitter and LinkedIn) is the more polished & professional side of me. Within reason, of course - if what I write is cold, restrained and corporate, it's not exactly my voice anymore.
The plan is for the site to be a regular mix of links (with some thoughts from me most of the time), with big posts sprinkled in from time to time. The topics will typically be along these lines:
- Technology developments that affect web developers like me, in a personal or professional capacity
- New UX tools and web design techniques, particularly if they're related to Vue
- Guides on how to accomplish something with some of those fancy tools I've found and tried out
Finally, there will certainly be significant moments in my life going forward. Tragedies, celebrations, opportunities, injustices, transitions, struggles, victories. Those events demand big, important messages - and they will have a home here.
How It Was Built
And finally, the last part - the fun part 😊
I plan to go into more details about the tools in later posts, but here's a summary.
- Speaking of which, there's no client-side tracking. The web server writes logs like virtually any other website, which doesn't capture much other than IP addresses and user agent strings.
- The page's styling (which as always, I wrote; no pre-packaged Bootstrap theme here!) is Sass - either standalone SCSS files, or (rarely) blocks in Vue single-file components. The styling is compiled to CSS with Webpack, which also compiles the Vue and other JS files down to a single bundle.
- The heading fonts are fun - that's my own handwriting! I spent way too much time between Microsoft Font Maker and BirdFont putting it together, but I'm proud of what I made. With minor exceptions here and there, I can't really tell I didn't write it with a pen!
- The blog posts, written in Markdown, are compiled to static HTML with Eleventy. This is a brand new tool to me; over the last several years I've done .NET Core MVC sites instead. Eleventy is very interesting - kind of like Jekyll or Hugo, but a bit more do-it-yourself. That suits me just fine - I like the extra control it provides.
- Deployments are done with a Github Action, which compiles the site on every commit and pushes it to the web server.
- The web server is a small Azure instance, running Caddy in a Docker container. Given the limited traffic, I could probably host it from home, but... look around, can I really refuse to use the cloud? 😉
It's Good to Be Back!
If you got through all that, good for you, and thank you! I can't wait to share even more. Stay tuned!
Oh, right. "Stay tuned" comes from the days when TV's had antennas that you... y'know what, I'll let you figure it out. Until next time!