New Year, New Blog

I've had a blog since early 2016 now, and a total of 4 posts not including this one. I like the idea of having a library of my own content online, but have struggled to make content creation a habit. I decided recently to take a look at why that is so that I could will myself to post more often.

Why didn't I blog?

My old blog was hosted on Wordpress. Wordpress is a great solution for the less tech savvy or those who don't want to spend time on a custom site. It has all the features you could ever need for a blog, including comments, users, and a nice web interface for managing everything. Two things Wordpress is not known for, however, are speed and security. Those two happen to be things I value highly as a Cyber Security Engineer. Also, because Wordpress is so popular, there are plenty of spam bots. I found myself getting spam comments on my posts almost daily.

The other big reason I wasn't posting often is because my standard for post material was simply too high. If you look at my 3 real posts since the beginning of my Wordpress site, the average word count is over 2000. There are also several pictures and detailed explanations of a personal project. The project itself usually took at least several days worth of free time, and taking pictures and writing up a post took more time on top of that. With those standards, coming up with an idea for a post and executing it was a serious commitment.

Finally, I was paying almost \$40 a year to host this slow, spam ridden Wordpress site. I knew there were cheaper alternatives out there, but hadn't gotten around to migrating to one.

How do I get back into blogging?

Well, I need to fix all those problems!

First of all, I need to lower my mental barrier to posting. That means I won't necessarily only post about projects which took significant amounts of effort. I might write more opinion posts, and the average length will probably fall below 1000 words. I think this will help make blogging a habit by making the task of writing a post less daunting.

Next, I am ditching Wordpress. I don't need any of its fancy features anyway. I took a look at what I actually need from a blog, and it's not much. I need a place for content that is easily navigable, looks good on mobile and desktop, and preferably loads pretty fast. I've recently learned more about AWS' offerings and realized that an S3 bucket could provide cheap and fast hosting. The downside is that it would limit me to a static website unless I also made a backend. But I don't need dynamic content if all I want to do is share ideas. I decided to write my own static website with no backend.

Creating a website from scratch

When starting my website I decided to KISS. I am not using any templating, any css framework or css preprocessors. I am not using any javascript at all. I'm also only using css features that are widely supported without prefixes by very recent versions of browsers - so no I don't support IE 6. Sorry to all three of you out there, wherever you are. (In case you're wondering, yes, I took some inspiration from the best website and its predecessors).

What all of that means is that I came up with a basic html structure and wrote one css file to organize it and make it look decent. Now to create a new post, I copy and paste one of my old posts and change the content. Then I add a "card" to the post list page. Changing the shared header might become difficult down the road, but I don't foresee that being a regular task.

The best part is that the average total content size excluding pictures for one of my posts is only a couple kilobytes. That's it. Load this site as many times as you want on LTE because it's going to load fast and use up almost none of your data.

How'd it turn out?

You're looking at it! (Edit: not anymore as of 2020)

I've ended up with a simple but clean looking website that I can really call my own. I have a higher sense of pride in this compared to my old Wordpress site because I made it entirely myself. Because it's on S3 and it's so lightweight, it will cost very little (unless I become really popular - god forbid), and to update, all I have to do is run aws s3 sync . s3://orndorffgrant.com/. Both security and scaling are also taken care of by Amazon. Best of all, there aren't any annoying spam bots! The main downside is that there isn't a comment section, but if I want a discussion I can post a link to reddit or crosspost on Medium.

This type of website is definitely not for everyone, but it suits me and my needs well. Here's to much more frequent and enjoyable posting in the new year!